060917-nws-flaring-FILE

The venting of flames from a natural gas flaring stack dance with the waves of heat on a cold winter day in front of an oil pumper jack at an oil well site along Highway 2 west of Stanley in 2015.

The Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights has joined other environmental groups in challenging the Trump administration’s decision to roll back an Obama-era rule to capture methane.

The groups filed a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Bureau of Land Management’s Waste Prevention Rule, arguing that the action violates federal policies.

Lisa DeVille, president of the Fort Berthold Protectors of Water and Earth Rights, said in a statement that tribal communities are directly impacted by the methane rule. The lawsuit argues the BLM fails to consider the impact of rescinding the rule on people living near BLM-managed oil and gas leases, especially tribal communities.

Natural gas flaring rates continue to be higher at Fort Berthold than the rest of North Dakota. On the reservation, operators flared 24 percent of Bakken natural gas that was produced in July, according to the Department of Mineral Resources. Statewide, Bakken natural gas flaring was 16 percent.

“It is our people who breathe in the toxins that can be prevented from spilling into our atmosphere. It is our children, my grandchildren, that are breathing it in,” DeVille, of Mandaree, said in a statement. “How can this be allowed to continue?”

The lawsuit, which names Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of the Interior as defendants, is filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Other environmental groups joining the lawsuit include the Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Western Organization of Resource Councils and others.

North Dakota regulators and oil industry officials say they’re working with federal and tribal authorities to streamline the regulatory approval process for natural gas infrastructure projects. Industry leaders say federal regulatory delays contribute to the higher natural gas flaring rates at Fort Berthold.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council recently commended the decision to rescind the Waste Prevention Rule, calling it a duplication of state regulations.

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(Reach Amy Dalrymple at 701-250-8267 or Amy.Dalrymple@bismarcktribune.com)

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