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Report: An Invisible Health Menace from Flaring in ND

North Dakotans in the Bakken region, where oil production is most heavily concentrated, have reported health problems they believe are the result of air pollution. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
North Dakotans in the Bakken region, where oil production is most heavily concentrated, have reported health problems they believe are the result of air pollution. (Tim Evanson/Flickr)
August 14, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakotans are still fighting air pollution, even as the Environmental Protection Agency takes the next steps toward removing regulations on methane-flaring at oil and gas well sites.

A new report from the Dakota Resource Council finds methane is affecting local residents' health, causing or exacerbating respiratory problems such as asthma, and driving people out of the Bakken region where wells are most heavily concentrated.

For the report, Lisa Deville, president of Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, looked at wells through an infrared camera and found flares invisible to the naked eye all around her community.

"We have been advocating for more research and monitoring because we don't know the environmental impact or health impact from this oil and gas extraction," she states.

The public comment period on a proposed two-year stay of the EPA's methane-flaring standards came to an end last week.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the agency has to balance environmental regulations and economic growth. Pruitt made two stops in North Dakota last week, but did not visit the Bakken region.

Deville says she will continue to fight for tougher oversight to protect North Dakotans' health. But she contends Pruitt will hand the oil and gas industry a big win if the EPA does away with regulations on flaring.

"Pruitt is only looking out for industry by loosening up these regulations that would save millions of Americans,” Deville maintains. “It's been a challenge. We've been testifying on this methane rule since 2014, when they very first brought it to North Dakota."

Deville adds one reason she continues to speak out for environmental safeguards is the well-being of her children.

"I don't want my children to think, 'You never did anything for me and here I am, I can't even grow food on my land,'” she states. “And this is the only that we have left. This is the only land that my people have left."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND