Climate + Energy

Something’s Gassy in North Dakota

It’s bad enough that North Dakota officials have the gall to assert a clean air plan proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency will do nothing for public health, when in fact the plan will reduce tens of thousands of tons of toxic air pollution from several coal-fired power plants in the state.

Now it seems they’re really bending over backward for polluters, this time turning a blind eye to natural gas flaring in western North Dakota, a practice that every day wastes enough gas to heat half a million homes.  As the New York Times reports today, the practice is not only fueling concerns over air quality, but wasting the very natural gas that companies elsewhere in the United States are clamoring to exploit.

Although North Dakota asserts there are no “serious problems” associated with the flaring, this argument just defies all logic.  For one thing, flaring is lost product, meaning North Dakota is losing money off the practice.  For another, they can’t point to any data showing that air pollution from flaring isn’t putting public health or welfare at risk.

Once again, North Dakota simply defers to the polluters.

The upshot is, once again, that the EPA is stepping in, this time proposing to strengthen air quality standards for the oil and gas industry.  Although we’ll see to what extent the agency decides to tackle flaring in North Dakota, the rules promise big air quality benefits for the entire nation.

Flaring in North Dakota (photo New York Times).