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Taxpayers are Losing Millions Each Year Venting and Flaring of Natural Gas on Public Lands

May 15th 2014

Today, Western Values Project released a new report highlighting the increase in the practice of venting and flaring natural gas on public lands, and the associated economic costs. The report’s release coincides with the latest in a series of listening sessions held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) addressing fugitive emissions from onshore oil and gas leases. Using the same methodology as a 2010 GAO report on federal oil and gas leases, new analysis from Western Values Project finds that millions of dollars’ worth of royalty payments are lost annually as industry vents and flares the byproducts of oil and gas production. That amount is now as much as two to three times higher than in 2010, by conservative estimates. Venting and flaring also continues to waste enormous quantities of natural gas that can never be recovered or sold. In fact, just last year, enough gas was vented or flared to meet the needs of all the homes in Los Angeles for a year. This enormous waste highlights the need for a robust rule from BLM. 

Americans would be outraged if they knew what was really going on here. As folks in the Midwest faced severe propane shortages this past winter, and paid sky high prices to heat their homes, billions of dollars’ worth of valuable natural gas went up in flames. This level of waste has cost national, state and local budgets hundreds of millions of dollars’ in the past several years, and unless action is taken, the problem will only get worse. Our Key Findings reveal: 1) In 2013, enough natural gas to meet the home needs of a city the size of Los Angeles or Chicago for an entire year, was vented and flared on federal public lands. 2) Over the next decade, American taxpayers stand to lose over $800 million in lost revenue due to venting and flaring. Conservative estimates for 2013, put the loss to taxpayers at between $54 and $64 million in lost royalties, nearly three times higher than in 2010. 3) In the last five years, at least $350 million in potential revenue has been lost due to flaring, as companies burn publicly owned gas without having to pay for it. 4) It’s estimated that every month, over $100 million worth of gas is vented or flared in North Dakota alone. 


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