The amount of gas burned by fracking flares in Texas and North Dakota is not measured by the states, according to a new report by Ecowatch, which also found that the amount of gas burned in just two shale plays was equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions produced by 1.5 million cars. This burned gas is not taxed, and is costing Americans money, Ecowatch found. Not only that, the regulatory agencies responsible for allowing the burning–such as the Railroad Commission–may be breaking the law.
“Burning natural gas as waste is costing taxpayers and the climate. States should enact tough new standards to prevent flaring, including requiring drillers to pay taxpayers the full value of any gas they flare,” wrote Ecowatch’s Dusty Horwitt in the report.
In just the Bakken shale, and in just the past four years, $854 million in natural gas has been burned.
The state of North Dakota does not track the amount of gas that is flared by fracking companies. It also does not track how much companies pay in taxes on flared gas.
Texas also does not require gas producers to pay taxes on the gas they flare.
Don Morrison, executive director at the nonprofit grassroots group Dakota Resource Council, commented on the findings. “This report shows that North Dakota regulators simply aren’t doing their job,” said Morrison, “Instead they’re putting private profits ahead of the public interest. This isn’t our first oil boom, we know how to do it better.”
“The Railroad Commission is statutory required ‘to prevent waste of Texas’s natural resources’,” said Sharon Wilson at Earthworks, referring to the Texas Railroad Commission. “I don’t see how the Railroad Commission isn’t breaking the law by allowing drillers to waste natural gas by flaring it off rather than capturing it.”
The author of the report noted that the $854 million worth of flared gas in Bakken would pay for 5 kilowatt photovoltaic solar panel installations for almost every household North Dakota’s largest city, Fargo.
By Day Blakely Donaldson