Bill To Restrict Natural Gas Flaring Voted Down In The North Dakota Senate


We’ve all seen the satellite pictures of the Bakken oil fields lit up nearly as bright as urban centers like Minneapolis and Chicago. Most of those lights are the result of natural gas flaring. All the oil drilling taps into natural gas deposits. The gas must be vented off to get at the oil, but since the Bakken oil boom has grown so quickly the infrastructure to capture the natural gas and bring it to market isn’t in place.

So instead the gas is burned off, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone from environmentalists to the oil/gas companies themselves. The greenies don’t like the emissions, and the oil/gas industry doesn’t like wasting a valuable commodity.

To address this, state Senator Tim Mathern introduced SB2315 which would have banned gas flaring after one year on any well in the state. The bill was voted down on a 13 – 34 vote:

Again, we’d all like to see the practice of flaring curtailed, but the simple truth is that if the industry could do it they would be doing it. They can’t right now, because the infrastructure isn’t in place, meaning that the result of Mathern’s bill wouldn’t have been the reduction of flaring so much as the reduction in oil production.

If the oil companies can’t get rid of the gas, through flaring or capture, they can’t produce oil. It’s as simple as that (and I think many of the far-left environmental groups who were backing this bill saw that as a feature of the legislation, not a bug).

The state would be better off looking at ways to get the infrastructure in place for natural gas capture more quickly, rather than punishing the industry for not doing something that’s impossible for them to do anyway.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Kevin Flanagan

    What are they doing about the emissions from all the gas bags in the state government?

  • Camburn

    At least the Legislature uses its brains once a session.

    Now, what does the rest have in store for us?

    Besides not funding milk?

    • Rob

      The milk funding was unnecessary.

  • borborygmi

    As explained by you a common sense approach

    • Kevin Flanagan

      “Common sense approach” by which borborygmi hopes to get wealthier.

      • borborygmi

        Another 99% Kevin? Tsk tsk tsk

        • Kevin Flanagan

          How much would a normal person in the non-subsidized private sector need to save after taxes to enjoy the income stream you do?

  • Guest Observer

    Tim Mathern is a sad little man.

    • Kevin Flanagan

      What is he so guilty about? He must have done some very bad things and is trying to assuage his guilt by doing things like this!

      • camsaure

        Guilty? Mathern? Doesn’t he act like he is against drunk driving except when he does it?

  • camsaure

    Who votyed in favor of it? Would be “illuminating” to know.

    • Rob

      If you watch the end of the video it shows the vote roll.

  • Thresherman

    Just another example of an idiot thinking that a government decree will solve practical realities.

  • Lynn Bergman

    An equally responsible contributor of the light is man camp and commercial site lighting.
    The state IS supporting tapping of the flared gas and using it to electrify the well operations.

    • OldConserv2011

      Not to mention that many of the oil companies are experimenting with using on site compression to compress the gas into portable tanks and ship it by truck to remote processing plants. Or they’re going back to gas fired engines to run the pumping units. It’s not as if they aren’t aware that there is billions of dollars going up in smoke. (in the case of natural gas, very clean smoke)