Texas Cited by Democrat as Model for Less Flaring After Fracking

Texas should be the model for other states as officials seek to reduce the need to burn, or flare off, methane coming from oil and gas wells drilled by hydraulic fracturing, a top Senate Democrat said.

Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, praised Texas for a flaring rate of 0.5 percent of the gas it produces.

“I want to hear what the industry can do to get other states’ levels of flaring down to Texas’ levels,” Wyden of Oregon said at a committee roundtable with gas producers and environmental groups in Washington.

With an oil boom in North Dakota, drillers are flaring 30 percent of the gas being released, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The activity drew global attention after NASA distributed a nighttime photograph showing the lights from flaring towers and oil-field equipment in a state with 9.7 residents per square mile in 2010.

Gas output in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia is booming as drillers unlock shale deposits using the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that shoots water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rock and free trapped gas. The process has spurred complaints from landowners and environmental groups about increased air pollution and water contamination.

That process is used in states such as North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming to get oil. Those oil wells also produce natural gas, and with natural gas prices low and infrastructure sparse, drillers often burn off the initial gas from a well.

In addition to flaring, lawmakers heard about water-contamination issues tied to fracking and whether a minimal federal standard is necessary for the practice. Representatives from companies such as Halliburton Co., citing a lack of instances of water contamination from fracking, said federal oversight isn’t needed.

“In our experience, the states are the best situated to regulate oil and gas activities,” David Porges, chief executive of EQT Corp., a Pittsburgh-based natural-gas producer.

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