Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

New Report Exposes Hidden Fracking Subsidy on Public and Tribal Lands

Energy

A new, peer-reviewed report from Friends of the Earth brings to light one of Big Oil’s most overlooked subsidies: royalty-free flaring on public and tribal lands.

Bakken flaring gas at night. Photo credit: Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons

As the fracking boom spreads across the country, companies eager to tap profitable shale oil are burning away—or flaring—natural gas in record amounts. This practice increases air pollution and sends climate-busting carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere. Last updated 35 years ago, existing federal guidelines allow widespread flaring on public and tribal lands that is almost always exempt from royalties.

“Royalty-free flaring is both a dangerous addition to climate disruption and a de facto subsidy for the oil industry,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “For over a century Big Oil has been subsidized to the hilt with everything from tax breaks to royalty free-leasing. To that list we can now add natural gas flaring—and it has to stop.”

Bernice 1 and 2 moisture flare in Arnegard, North Dakota. Photo credit: Tim Evanson / Wikimedia Commons

Focusing on the national epicenter of the flaring boom in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, the report, “A Flaring Shame: North Dakota & the hidden fracking subsidy,” uses data directly from Bureau of Land Management to reveal the exact amount of gas wasted by individual companies.

Findings include:

  • Between January 2007 and April 2013, the BLM permitted the royalty-free flaring of 107,573,228 mcfs of natural gas on North Dakota public and tribal lands, producing carbon dioxide equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 1.3 million cars and wasting an estimated $524 million worth of resources.

  • Although more than 50 operators received royalty-free gas, a single company—Harold Hamm’s Continental Resources—was responsible for more waste than all of the others combined, burning a grand total of 55 million mcfs of gas producing carbon emissions equivalent to more than 360 million gallons of gasoline.

  • The venting of natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. In North Dakota Marathon Oil vented the most of any single company with 962, 812 mcfs, equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from more than 35,000 homes.

“As the Obama administration prepares new rules to tackle venting and flaring, it has the opportunity to end this subsidy for good,” said Ross. “For the sake of taxpayers and the climate, this loophole must be closed.”

The original data provided by the BLM is available here

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

13 Best Tweets Celebrating Shell Abandoning Arctic Drilling

It’s Official: Republicans Want Climate Action and Support Accelerating Renewable Energy

7 Signs Renewable Energy Is Here to Stay

Faith Leaders Speak Out Against Fracking Amid Pope Francis’ Visit to U.S.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less
Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less
A pipeline being constructed in Pennsylvania. Robert Nickelsberg / Getty Images
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday mandating federal agencies bypass key environmental reviews of energy and infrastructure projects.
Read More Show Less
A coke storage area is seen as steam rises from the quench towers at the US Steel Clairton Works on Jan. 21, 2020, in Clairton, Pennsylvania. White plumes of smoke billow above western Pennsylvania's rolling hills as scorching ovens bake coal, which rolls in by the trainload along the Monongahela River. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP via Getty Images

President Trump's claim that the U.S. has the cleanest air and water in the world has been widely refuted by statistics showing harmful levels of pollution. Now, a new biannual ranking released by researchers at Yale and Columbia finds that the U.S. is nowhere near the top in environmental performance, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
Students walk by a sign reading "Climate Change" at the Doctor Tolosa Latour public school in Madrid, Spain on Sept. 9, 2014. In the U.S., New Jersey will be the first state to make the climate crisis part of its curriculum for all K-12 students. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP via Getty Images

New Jersey has invested in the future health of the planet by making sure the next generation of adults knows how human activity has had a deleterious effect on the planet. The state will be the first in the nation to make the climate crisis as part of its curriculum for all students, from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, as NorthJersey.com reported.

Read More Show Less
Some reservations are reporting infection rates many times higher than those observed in the general U.S. population. grandriver / Getty Images

By Lindsey Schneider, Joshua Sbicca and Stephanie Malin

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is novel, but pandemic threats to indigenous peoples are anything but new. Diseases like measles, smallpox and the Spanish flu have decimated Native American communities ever since the arrival of the first European colonizers.

Read More Show Less

Trending

As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations. Sawitree Pamee / EyeEm

By Kaya Bulbul

The ocean is our lifeline - we rely on it for the food we eat, the air we breathe, as well as for millions for jobs worldwide.

As we continue to grapple with the issues of overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, there exists an opportunity to address these existential threats with new innovations, many of which unidentified or insufficiently supported.

Read More Show Less