Democrat Proposed Flaring Restriction Would Throw Monkey Wrench Into Oil Production

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I don’t think anyone likes flaring, which is the burning off of natural gas from oil wells (right now 30% of the natural gas produced in the Bakken is flared). Environmentalists don’t like it because of the emissions. The oil companies and the capitalists don’t like it because natural gas is valuable, and if there’s one thing we can all agree about when it comes to oil companies and capitalists it’s that they like making money.

So finding a way to stop flaring in the Bakken oil fields, which you can see from space these days, isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But Senator Tim Mathern’s bill, SB2315, is the wrong way to go about doing it.

The bill would limit flaring on any given oil well to no more than one year. Currently the State Industrial Commission has been approving flaring exemptions for the oil industry. This bill would end that, setting the one year limit in stone.

But here’s the problem: It’s not like the oil industry wants to flare the gas. They’d rather capture it, and sell it, but what’s holding them back is infrastructure. And what’s holding infrastructure back is government red tape and an eminent domain process that is arduous (and rightfully so). It can, and does, take years to build the sort of pipeline infrastructure necessarily to capture natural gas and bring it to market. Implementing a one year window for connecting any given well to that infrastructure puts oil producers between a rock and a hard place. So much so that it’s a real possibility oil production could be held up for want of natural gas infrastructure.

Which is no doubt why radical environmental groups like the Dakota Resource Council testified in favor of this bill in Bismarck this week. Because they know the obstacles it would represent to oil production.

We should take a positive approach to curbing flaring. Rather than putting restrictions in place, perhaps we should find out what roadblocks are in the way of capturing the gas and have the government work to remove them.

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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  • Roy_Bean

    They have to kill the oil patch to stop the population shift away from Imperial Cass. The 2020 census scares the crap out of them.

    • jimmypop

      uh, no…. cass will be fine. just as we always have. our oil wells chug every day regardless of political will and wars. we are finally happy to know that our money will stay ours and the west can start to pay for itself…..right? we get to keep our money local and let the west be self sustaining? in fact, we really should start getting a massive inflow based on all the money we’ve sent out west for the last 40 years. right? not a chance.

      • Roy_Bean

        I guess you people will get to keep all the profits generated by NDSU now, right?

      • Hal414

        Apparently you haven’t looked at your drain on the state human services budget.

  • Captjohn

    Please gentleman! I thought we put that kind of parocialism behind us years ago.
    We accomplish so much more when we recognize each areas contribution to the economy of the state.

  • camsaure

    I hope Mathern wasn’t driving on his way to the capitol, he must be drunk again.

    • Kevin Flanagan

      He’s drunk on “liberation theology.”

  • nimrod

    Forcing oil companies to recover and sell their natural gas is nearly the same as requiring farmers to recover and sell their straw. If it is economical, it will be done.

    • WOOF

      Flaring gas pollutes the atmosphere, straw not so much.

      • nimrod

        In your opinion, maybe.

      • camsaure

        Yeah? But you are still a waste of our oxygen.

  • Hal414

    Let’s get that pipeline built so we have a way to get all this gas to market!