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Lillian Jones, Fargo, Published April 06 2013

Letter: Cut incentives to flare natural gas

Flaring of natural gas in western North Dakota is out of control. We can monitor the expanding oil development and excessive waste in the Bakken compliments of nighttime satellite images of North America. Where North Dakota was virtually indistinguishable before, the Bakken is now lit up like Chicago. If current projections for the oil development growth are any indication, this is only the beginning.

Oil industry lobbyists and state officials talk about wanting to reduce flaring, so they are asking for more tax breaks to collect and market the gas. How about we stop paying them to flare, too? Currently, oil companies get a special exemption to flare, escape paying royalties to mineral owners and avoid paying the gross production tax on the natural gas they are wasting. They get that exemption for a year when claiming economic hardship. When the initial exemption expires, they can apply for an extension due to difficulty connecting wells to a natural gas pipeline. The state normally grants such extensions indefinitely.

So, legislators think we should give oil companies tax breaks to flare and tax breaks to stop flaring. That doesn’t make sense, and it’s irresponsible. Roughly one- third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken is flared, while the rest of the globe may see flaring at less than 3 percent of production.

The North Dakota Legislature is considering two bills in which amendments have been proposed that would reduce the incentive to flare down to 60 days. Call your legislators and ask them to support amending HB 1134 and SB 2370 to cut the exemption that encourages flaring.

If oil companies flare and waste gas, they should pay royalties and taxes. No amount of money will repair the damage being done to our atmosphere by excessive flaring, and North Dakota has never had the reputation to be wasteful. It’s time to get this corrected.