Wyoming state waste rules are a start, but taxpayers deserve more

In case you missed it: Last week, the state of Wyoming released draft rules to regulate venting and flaring by the oil and gas industry. Companies often either burn off or release excess natural gas produced through the extraction process—a wasteful practice, given that much of this gas could instead be economically captured and put to beneficial use.

These rules are a great first step by the state to limit a practice that costs taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year—but they do not go far enough to truly hold companies accountable to taxpayers. The rules require reporting by companies to account for the gas they’re either venting or flaring, but the limits set are still quite high, and don’t require much action by companies.

And that’s a problem, because Wyoming taxpayers have lost out on upwards of $42 million in royalties they should have received on gas that was vented or flared on federal and tribal lands in Wyoming, since 2013. This is lost revenue that could have been put to good use throughout local, county, and state budgets, particularly in a time when oil prices are cheap and the state is not receiving as much revenue from energy production as it would otherwise.

The Petroleum Association of Wyoming supported last week’s rule, saying that this is the practice the industry has been engaged in for the last five years so it’s nice to see it codified. Again, while it’s great to see the state taking a step in the right direction to cut waste and boost state budgets, the rule just isn’t enough—companies need to be held accountable for waste by showing why it’s necessary, or not doing it at all.

Reporting is a good first step. But, if Wyoming regulators just move forward with business as usual, taxpayers will continue to lose out on millions – during a tough economy. It’s time for Wyoming to strengthen its rules and for the Bureau of Land Management to ensure that there are no loopholes when it comes to all taxpayers getting their fair share on our American public lands.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.