North Dakota is rich in natural gas but low gas prices are causing oil companies that are pumping in North Dakota to burn it instead of collect and sell it because it is simply more cost efficient. Extraction is currently at a net loss for them.
When a rig goes in the ground, natural gas materials crop up on the surface as a side effect. Simply leaking them in the air isn't moral (or legal I believe) so most companies have been setting them on fire. Hence the shots from space featuring that one sees online of the Watford city areas in western N.D. being brighter than, say, Minneapolis.
I fully support any and all methods to get the natural gas collected instead of burned. It is a finite resource we are using up to no gain to the state: no tax revenue, no jobs, no one getting heating for their house, etc. This is inherently silly and the government needs to work through our universities to engineer better ways to use this resource and incentivized collection now so that when, inevitably, prices go up later we won't all scratch our heads wondering what we were thinking letting this power source go up in smoke.
(Hanson lives in West Fargo and is currently a candidate for the North Dakota State House in the new District 16.)