The state Industrial Commission is giving the oil and gas industry another 10 months to meet a goal of capturing 85 percent of the natural gas produced by oil wells.
That means flaring would have to be down to 15 percent.
The original goal was to reach the 85 percent capture by January first. Instead, the new date is November first. The industry had asked for a two year delay. There’s an interim goal of 80 percent on April first. The Commission set an 88 percent goal in 2018 – and at least a 91 percent capture goal in 2020.
“It’s aggressive,” said North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness. He says delays in getting two rights-of-way for natural gas pipelines and processing plants caused the industry to ask for more time.
“It's a big project -- $13 billion," said Ness. "A few more months is critical.”
But Ness says that longer term goal – of 91 percent capture by 2020 – is a bit more daunting.
“You can set them, but understand -- markets change," said Ness. "Things change. Rigs change. Investment changes."
Environmentalists are not happy.
"I was hoping we got beyond the tail wagging the dog, when it comes to the state regulating the oil industry," said the Sierra Club's Wayde Schafer. "I guess not.”
Schafer says he would have liked to see stronger language about slowing production if the industry doesn’t meet the goals.
"When the bucket's full of water, you stop pouring water into it," said Schafer. "Otherwise, you're going to get waste.”
The Industrial Commission will also be looking at credits for companies that have done exceptionally well in capturing the natural gas – but may hit some snags along the way.