UPDATE 1-North Dakota postpones deadline for natgas flaring rules

Thu Sep 24, 2015 6:00pm EDT
 
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(New throughout, adds vote results, quotes from regulatory meeting)

By Ernest Scheyder

BISMARCK, N.D., Sept 24 (Reuters) - North Dakota regulators on Thursday gave the energy industry 10 extra months to reduce the amount of natural gas burned off at oil wells, acquiescing to industry worries that construction delays have made it all but impossible to meet existing targets.

Regulators in the No. 2 U.S. oil producing state stopped short of approving the full two-year extension sought by companies grappling with the steepest price downturn in years. Environmentalists, who had wanted to stick to the original deadline, criticized the decision.

Flaring, the wasteful burning of natural gas that occurs when pipeline infrastructure is lacking, hurts corporate profits as well as tax revenue.

Governor Jack Dalrymple and the two other members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC) voted unanimously to change the date when companies must capture 85 percent of natural gas produced from their wells to Nov. 1, 2016.

The extension pushes back potential penalties for companies, including forced reductions in oil output, and gives contractors next summer to try and expand a crucial network of natural gas gathering pipelines.

One environmental activist stood up at the vote's conclusion and lambasted Dalrymple for being "too cozy with the oil industry."

"The industry's presentation has some very real reasons why the goal has become more difficult," said Dalrymple. "Many of these items they've mentioned realistically could not have been expected."   Continued...