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Oil industry wary of new federal emissions proposal

WILLISTON -- North Dakota's oil industry says proposed federal regulations to reduce methane emissions could have a "dramatic" impact on the Bakken, but state regulators say it's too early to know how they will respond.

WILLISTON -– North Dakota’s oil industry says proposed federal regulations to reduce methane emissions could have a “dramatic” impact on the Bakken, but state regulators say it’s too early to know how they will respond.

President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week a plan to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already proposed rules last year that would affect new oil and gas wells, but the announcement this week would go a step further to address existing oil and gas facilities.

“The proposed regulations are still under review, but clearly most of these new rules are targeting the Bakken and to retroactively impose new emission standards on existing wells would have a dramatic impact,” said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

When asked Friday if North Dakota would challenge the new proposed rules, Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms said he doesn’t think the state will oppose the rules but will likely have comments.

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“I think we have to leave that option open as we take a look at whatever comes out,” Helms said. “We, of course, have been all about reducing methane emissions and flaring for almost four years now. So we’re certainly not opposed to rules that would reduce methane emissions. We’ll have to take a look at how they go about it.”

State officials are working with the industry to estimate how much oil production could be affected by new federal regulations, Helms said.

The new EPA rules could make proposed regulations by the Bureau of Land Management unnecessary, Helms said. The BLM, which held a public hearing in Dickinson last week, proposes rules that would reduce flaring on federal lands, but the EPA rules would include all lands, Helms said.

North Dakota producers flared 13 percent of natural gas produced in January, down from 15 percent the month earlier. The volume of natural gas flared also fell in January, down nearly 32 million cubic feet per day to under 223 million cubic feet per day, according to the Department of Mineral Resources.

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