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New rules designed to reduce flaring

North Dakota is cracking down on flaring at oil wells. That’s the process of burning natural gas – wasting it, essentially – instead of transporting it to market. Prairie Public Broadcasting’s Emily Guerin has more.

North Dakota flares more natural gas than any other state in the country. That’s because the gas here is a byproduct of drilling for oil. Oil is a much more valuable resource than natural gas right now. That makes it cheaper for companies to waste the gas than build the infrastructure needed to capture and sell it.

But the state’s oil and gas regulators are hoping to change that. Now, oil companies will have 90 days to reduce the amount of gas they flare by three-quarters. If they don’t do it, they’ll have to cut oil production and could be fined.

"The long term goal is to reduce the volume of gas flared and the number of wells flaring and the short term goal is to have those numbers stop going up," said state mineral resourced director Lynn Helms.

Helms says the new rules will be much tougher than in the past. Previously, oil companies could flare gas for one year before they had to capture it. But it was easy to continue flaring indefinitely by claiming it was too expensive and difficult to capture the gas.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple voted to approve the new rules, but says that it won’t be easy for some companies to stop flaring so much.

"I just hope that what we do here today, we’re serious about it…because otherwise it’s just going to be meaningless if we don’t stand by it," said Dalrymple.

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