The state Senate has approved a measure to put a 10-barrel floor on reportable oil spills – if they’re contained on the well pad.
Under current law, all spills are reported.
Sen. Erin Oban (D-Bismarck) opposed the bill.
"Mark my words -- if this bill passes, we're going to see a headline in a year or two that says, 'Look at how much North Dakota has reduced its oil spills,'" Oban said. "In reality, we will just have reduced what we are reporting."
Oban said the state reported 1258 spills last year -- the vast majority were 10 barrels or less.
Sen. Bill Bowman (R-Bowman) argued that reporting the spills leads to a faster clean-up.
"Any time you ease up on the restrictions on something like this, the potential to make it worse can be greater," Bowman said.
But Sen. Brad Bekkedahl (R-Williston) told his colleagues oil companies have made great strides in controlling and preventing spills.
"We recently had some rule changes within the Industrial Commission, talking about six inch berms around well site," Bekkedahl said. "That's another protective measure that's come in since this law was enacted a couple of years ago. It gives me a greater sense of ease to know we're protecting those well sites even more than we used to."
The bill passed 31 to 14. It is a House bill, so it goes back to the House to see if it agrees with Senate changes to it.