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Wyoming to Consider New Rules on Natural-Gas Waste

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The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposal to limit gas waste at well sites Thursday in Casper. (Think4photop/iStockphoto)
The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposal to limit gas waste at well sites Thursday in Casper. (Think4photop/iStockphoto)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
February 2, 2016

CASPER, Wy. - Wyoming is considering new rules for how much methane, the principal component of natural gas, companies are allowed to vent or burn at well sites.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing in Casper on Thursday.

Hollis Hackman, area director of the Wyoming School Board Association, points out that, because education funding is tied to severance taxes on energy production, wasted gas means lost revenues for schools.

"The state constitution provides for these severance-tax provisions, and that again is how we fund all of our state operations, including education," says Hackman. "We see it as a potential revenue source that's essentially going up in smoke."

ICF International, a business consulting firm, estimates more than $42 million worth of natural gas is lost every year in Wyoming. Industry groups claim stricter requirements in parts of the state where gas lines are unavailable would hurt companies dealing with tumbling prices.

Hackman says the downturn's hit on the state budget is one more reason gas should be captured and brought to market, not wasted.

Jon Goldstein, senior energy policy manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, notes Wyoming historically has been ahead of the curve on air quality, and its protections have been held up as models nationally by the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

However, he says the current proposals leave a lot of opportunities to reduce waste on the table.

"Portions of the state that historically have seen the most oil and gas development have had the strongest requirements to reduce waste and emissions," says Goldstein. "What hasn't happened yet is, the state hasn't applied those evenly across the whole state."

The BLM recently announced a plan to limit gas emissions on public and tribal lands. Goldstein says if Wyoming adopts rules that meet or exceed the BLM proposal, the state's chances of getting a variance on federal regulations would improve.

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