CHEYENNE — A state lawmaker from Converse County who lives in the middle of an oil boom is calling for a state study of the environmental effects of natural gas flaring.

Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, said he receives complaints from neighbors in Converse County daily about flaring.

In recent years, a spate of drilling companies has targeted oil formations in the area, striking natural gas in the process. Without many pipelines to transport the natural gas to market, companies have been flaring it — or burning it off on-site. They also flare when compression stations or other infrastructure that takes the natural gas to market breaks down, Wyoming State Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black said.

“I would hope as a committee we could look at it on the environmental side,” Anderson told members of the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee on Thursday.

Flared natural gas has caused concern in state government. The state doesn’t get tax revenue from the sale of natural gas if it isn’t sold on the market. The Legislature’s

Revenue Interim Committee is considering a draft bill that would allow operators to flare without paying taxes to the state only for 15 days.

But Anderson said Thursday that the focus should also be on the environmental effects.

Committee members did not decide whether to study natural gas flaring pollution on Thursday. The topic was just scheduled to be discussed during the meeting.

Anderson arrived in Cheyenne with a local newspaper article that described proposed natural gas plant projects in Converse County. The plants also have residents concerned about pollution, he said.

Although Anderson said he didn’t know what the effects of natural gas flaring pollution are, he suspected they were minimal.

But the state should study it, “so we know for sure,” he said. “I’d like to have some answers. I think there are people in my constituency who would like to know. There are accusations that they are affected. So I think they’re entitled to know.”

Few people at the committee meeting knew about flaring pollution.

Black, the oil and gas supervisor, and Office of State Lands and Investments Director Ryan Lance said flaring causes issues with air quality but neither knew in much detail what those issues were.

Bruce Hinchey, president of the Casper-based Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said some carbon dioxide was released during natural gas flaring but he didn’t know its effect.

Jill Morrison of the Sheridan-based Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowner group, said the concern with natural gas flaring was nitrogen, sulfur, methane and volatile organic compounds on people, soil and lakes.

She shared a 2012 article from the Research Journal of Environmental and Earth Sciences about natural gas flaring in Delta State, Nigeria, that showed respiratory effects on people who lived near it. Nigeria has little regulation of flaring, the article stated.

Reach state reporter Laura Hancock at 307-266-0581 or at Follow her on Twitter: @laurahancock.


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