A Fargo Democrat has introduced arguably the toughest legislation to date aimed at curbing the oil industry’s practice of burning and wasting natural gas as an unwanted byproduct of oil production.

Sen. Tim Mathern’s bill hits the oil industry in its pocketbook by cutting out an easily acquired waiver that allows companies to claim an economic hardship of connecting a well to a natural gas pipeline. The amount of natural gas burned off each day in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch could heat more than 500,000 homes, Mathern said.

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