DEM-NPL Legislators Introduce “Smart Oversight” Legislation

DEM-NPL Legislators Introduce “Smart Oversight” Legislation

Proposals would fosters responsible oil and gas development

(Bismarck, N.D.) – Dem-NPL legislators today announced the introduction of legislation aimed at “smart oversight” of the development of North Dakota’s oil and gas resources. The three bills would provide sensible separation of the regulation and promotion of oil and natural gas development, meaningful transparency with regard to the Industrial Commission’s settlement of fines, and safeguards in the siting and placement of gathering and saltwater pipelines.

“The heart of the ‘smart oversight’ initiative is sensible regulation, not necessarily more regulation,” said Senator Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks. “Both regulation and promotion of the oil and gas industry are important to the state, but North Dakotans understand that vesting these two functions in the Department of Mineral Resources — as is the case under current law — makes for an irreconcilable conflict of interest. As a practical manner we have already begun the process of this work.”

Triplett’s bill, SB 2366, seeks to amend Chapter 38-08 of the North Dakota Century Code, which declares it the policy of the state “to promote the development, production, and utilization of natural resources of oil and gas” for the sake of various ends, including providing for “a greater ultimate recovery” of these resources. The Industrial Commission is also charged with the responsibility of regulating all “operations for the production of oil and gas” under this chapter and has delegated virtually all of its regulatory powers to the director of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). The DMR would be tasked with regulating oil and gas development while the Department of Commerce would be in charge of promoting the industry if Triplett’s legislation is passed into law.

Likewise, Senator Tyler Axness’ bill would infuse meaningful transparency and accountability into the oversight of oil and gas development by the Industrial Commission without need for new regulations. The legislation, SB 2342, would add three lines of text to the Century Code to require the full Industrial Commission to “publicly vote by roll call” on accepting or rejecting the settlement of fines levied by the DMR for violations of rules governing oil and gas development. North Dakota’s Industrial Commission recently drew national media attention for “often” suspending 90 percent of fines assessed to violators.

“We are not saying fines should never be settled,” said Senator Axness. “What we are saying is that responsibility for whether or not to settle these fines should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the governor, agriculture commissioner, and attorney general. They are the ones who are responsible to the public, and they should vote publicly about these important matters.”

Earlier this week, Dem-NPL Assistant House Leader Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, and Senator John Warner, D-Ryder, drafted legislation that would require pipelines installed after June 30, 2017 to have flow meters, shut-off valves, cutoff switches, or other safeguards to prevent spills. The legislation would also require that all pipelines, including gathering and saltwater lines, to be bonded. Ultimately, the legislation was prime sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson.

“We’re thrilled to have the majority leader’s assistance on this important issue,” Mock added.

SB 2342 has been referred to Senate Judiciary and SB 2366 and SB 2374 have been referred to Senate Energy and Natural Resources.

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