For Immediate Release
August 8, 2014
Contact: David Jakubiak, ELPC
Bismarck, ND – North Dakota’s oil-fueled economic boom should not stifle development of a diverse energy mix, mask the losses of wasteful resource flaring, or place North Dakota’s unique special places at risk, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Mindi Schmitz told state, federal and business leaders Friday at the state’s Quadrennial Energy Review.
“This boom is primarily focused on Bakken oil, but there are other energy development opportunities here to diversify the state’s energy mix and broaden the economic expansion,” said Schmitz, North Dakota governmental relations specialist with ELPC.
The Review held at Bismarck State College was attended by a who’s who of federal, state and business leaders from the energy and transportation sector. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Others on hand included Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF; and Robert Steede, director of Enbridge North Dakota.
Schmitz noted that North Dakota has the sixth most wind resource in the nation, yet ranks 11th in wind energy production. “There is a substantial and costly gap between the potential represented in the size of the resource and the actual represented by on-the-ground wind development.”
Additionally, she called for continued efforts to end the wasteful venting and flaring of North Dakota’s natural gas resource. While steps have been made, she said, about 1/3rd of the natural gas extracted in the state is still flared. As the number of wells grow, the amount of gas rises as well.
“In May 2014 alone, operators flared nearly 10 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough to heat around 100,000 average homes for a year,” she said.
Flaring, Schmitz said, is taking money out of the pockets of landowners and is costing the local, state and federal government millions in lost tax revenue. “In May 2013, gas flaring cost the state about $3.6 million in lost tax revenue per day.”
Flaring also pollutes, she said, producing huge amounts of harmful, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds; greenhouse gas pollution, including carbon dioxide and methane.
Of particular concern, Schmitz argued are special places on North Dakota that are irreplaceable.
“Flames from flaring obscure what were once pristine, starry night skies and pollution from flaring harms the park’s plants and animals,” she said. “We should not be fracking and flaring within view of Teddy Roosevelt National Park or any other special place.”
Schmitz offered 5 recommendations to reduce risks posed by oil developemt:
- Adopt standards to minimize flaring from oil/mixed oil-and-gas wells;
- Promulgate requirements to minimize methane leakage from wells, pipes and associated gas production and transport equipment;
- Pass more stringent rules for pipelines, railcars and trucks to minimize oil/wastewater spills, and strictly enforce those rules;
- Require that, where possible, fracking wastewater be recycled, and fund research to increase wastewater recycling; and
- Bolster protections for special places under federal control, including Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the Dakota Grasslands, and other sites with historical, archaeological and natural resource assets.
“We can have responsible energy development with immense benefits, and provide greater protection for North Dakota air, water and special places,” she said.