The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has finalized new rules governing the flaring and venting of natural gas from oil wells.
Natural gas is a byproduct of drilling for oil, but when there aren't pipelines or processing facilities nearby to collect the gas, companies sometimes end up burning it off.
The new rules formalize requirements for operators to submit reports so that the state can keep track of how much gas is being flared.
"I think that there previously have been some gaps in the data, and I think this new rule will help fill those gaps and we'll get a much better understanding what's happening out in the field," said John Robitaille, assistant director of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. "So I think we're making a strong step forward."
The new rules also require operators submit a plan for how they will eventually capture the gas when they apply to flare.
Environmental groups praised the changes, but said they could have gone further.
“The downside is that these applications to flare will only be required for well flaring large volumes of gas, and significant amounts of gas still comes from wells that are venting or flaring less than 60,000 cubic feet [a day],” said Amber Wilson, with the Wyoming Outdoor Council.
In 2015, the Casper Star-Tribune reports that flared and vented between 4.6 and 5.8 billion cubic feet of gas.