by Matt Garrington

Apparently, oil drilling is doing so well, oil and gas companies are burning off nearly one-third of the natural gas they produce in North Dakota. Now, House Democrats are calling for a congressional investigation into these oil and gas drilling companies’ practice of wasting a viable energy resource.

The request follows an article in The New York Times exposing the process. According to the Times, loose regulations in North Dakota has led to the widespread practice of deliberate burning off natural gas, commonly known as gas flaring.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) criticized the practice in a recent letter to House Republicans and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI): “These wasteful practices appear to be a result of high oil prices and low prices for natural gas.  Investments in infrastructure to capture the natural gas associated with oil drilling are not keeping up with the rapid pace of oil exploration and development.”

The New York Times also reports the gas flaring is wasting enough “energy every day to heat half a million homes for a day” and dumps “two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.”

The reason oil and gas companies are burning off the excess production is due to lack or storage capabilities and lack of access to a gas pipeline, which has a widely covered, troubled past. Yet, these corporations continue to extract and waste America’s energy supply with little regard to the trouble created.

“Our goal should be to utilize domestic energy resources responsibly to reduce our dependence on imported energy, not to squander vast quantities of natural gas,” writes Reps. Waxman and Rush.

In North Dakota, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages approximately 1,700 oil and gas leases, which generated $12.3 million in revenue in 2006. The BLM returned $6.2 million to the state. There is no doubt that North Dakota residents will not be happy to learn oil companies are squandering hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential revenue for the state.

These are also the same oil and gas companies who have been complaining about drilling regulations on public lands. In Washington, executives continue to ignore the facts when testifying before Congress – misrepresenting the truth about energy production. In fact, oil and gas activity is actually nearing a 20-year high. So it is wild that these corporations continue to get away with wasting energy, demanding more taxpayer handouts, and double-down on American families hard-earned wages.