Media Contacts:
Kelsey Robinson, (512) 691-3404, krobinson@edf.org
Chris Merrill, (307) 349-7288, chris@wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org 


Proposed Wyoming Flaring Rule Needs Improvements to Prevent Waste, Protect Clean Air

Proposed rule changes improve data collection and planning practices, but more can be done to reduce waste and air pollution

CASPER — The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission announced proposed revisions to the state’s flaring rules on Tuesday. While the text of the proposal has not yet been released, a description of its provisions by WOGCC Supervisor Mark Watson revealed both important deficiencies and important progress.

“This proposal contains some good improvements, including better data reporting and a requirement that operators submit a gas capture plan with their application for a permit to flare,” said Amber Wilson, environmental quality advocate for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “But we also urge the commission to ensure that flaring and venting are reduced as much as possible.”

“We look forward to reviewing the proposal once it is available,” said Jon Goldstein, Senior Energy Policy Manager at Environmental Defense Fund.  “We are encouraged that WOGCC is addressing this serious problem.  However, we are concerned that the proposal will not go far enough to curb the venting and flaring of natural gas in Wyoming.”

The proposal, as described by Supervisor Watson, does not include a prohibition on venting, which is the intentional release of natural gas to the atmosphere. It also lacks any requirement that operators demonstrate an economic justification for venting or flaring.

Venting of gas directly to the atmosphere poses serious environmental risks and both venting and flaring are wasteful practices that needlessly deplete an important domestic energy resource. The new proposal places few new restrictions on venting or flaring — other than lowering the threshold under which venting would be allowed to 30,000 cubic feet per day.

“One major improvement to this proposal would be to eliminate all unpermitted flaring in Wyoming,” Wilson said. “As currently drafted, companies can flare up to 60,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day without ever having to get a permit.”

Venting of natural gas is flatly prohibited in some states such as North Dakota. Furthermore, flared and vented natural gas represents the waste of a valuable natural resource. According to a recent report from ICF International, due to venting, flaring and equipment leaks, Wyoming wasted more than $42 million worth of gas in 2013 on federal and tribal lands alone. According to a report from Western Values Project, if captured and sent to market, this would have brought an additional $88 million in federal royalty payments to Wyoming since 2009.

“Our goal should be to eliminate venting altogether,” said Jon Goldstein, senior policy manager at Environmental Defense Fund. “It’s both wasteful and unnecessary. Not only is vented gas and associated air pollution bad for local air quality, it also represents a waste of a valuable natural resource, depriving the state of needed revenue at a crucial time. And operators who are flaring natural gas should, at the very least, offer an explanation to the state and to royalty owners as to why they are wasting this valuable resource.”

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Wyoming Outdoor Council (wyomingoutdoorcouncil.org), the state’s oldest independent conservation organization. We’ve worked to protect Wyoming’s environment and quality of life for future generations since 1967.

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on our Energy Exchange blogTwitter and Facebook.

West Edge