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north dakota fracking spacenorth dakota fracking space

Light Pollution from North Dakota Fracking Visible from Space

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Good luck seeing the stars in some parts of North Dakota.

The natural gas boom from fracking underway in the state is now so great that NASA is picking it up on satellite images as if it was one giant city. Unlike urban areas, however, this light is formed by the burning of natural gas as it rises to the surface. According to NPR, North Dakota allows drillers to “flare” off the gas for up to a year (with some extensions) – and with 8 new wells being drilled every day, this is creating a hellish landscape at night.

nasa north dakota fracking

According to the NRDC’s Peter Lehner – the North Dakota gas industry burns off enough gas to heat half a million homes – every single day.

“The World Bank estimates that in North Dakota alone, natural gas flares produce the same amount of global warming pollution as 2.5 million cars,” he writes. “Across the board, the oil and gas industry wastes two to three percent of all the natural gas in the country, according to the EPA, due to flaring, leaks, and other waste. Other experts think this number is even higher, and that unconventional gas production, like fracking, wastes up to 8 percent.”

While it’s true that North Dakota’s so-called “Kuwait on the Prairie” has led to 41,000 jobs (and the lowest unemployment numbers in the country), not everyone is thrilled with the transformation of the landscape.

“I lived in western North Dakota for the second half of 2012 for work,” wrote one commenter on NPR.org. “The light pollution is so bad that people get confused and think they are driving towards the sunrise in the early hours of the day. Texas banned flaring back in the 1930’s. There is barely any regulation because ND isn’t used to this amount of activity and wasn’t prepared. The elementary schools have tripled in enrollment in the past two years. They don’t want to stifle the money coming in from taxes because they need it to build up their infrastructure. However, allowing the companies to do as they please with little to no accountability is an insult to Teddy Roosevelt’s efforts to preserve some beautiful country out there.”

Holy shit that sounds awful. Anyone living in North Dakota currently that would like to chime in? Can you even go outside without feeling like you’re stuck in some kind of dystopian hellscape?

Video of a gas flare in North Dakota below.

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  • Nichole Cich Springer

    I just got back from spending some time out in Western ND. Scarey to think that this once abundantly peaceful state has been over run with greed for what the Oil companies can make off of this. Its just sad. Oil+greed=no hope for ND!

  • Audrey Fischer

    How is this legal?! Fracking is so out of control. wasteful. harmful. short-sided. greedy. It is so damn glaring obvious… it is wrong to scar the lands like this and steal it away from future generations.

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