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Energy & Environment

Dalrymple: We're learning more about the Tioga oil spill

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple says the state is looking at some new procedures in reporting oil spills – such as the one near Tioga.

More than 20-thousand barrels of oil spilled from a Tesoro pipeline. The spill was initially discovered September 29th by a farmer, and it was thought to be 750 barrels. But within several days, the amount was determined to be much bigger than that.

"The Health Department is primarily oriented to, 'Is there or is there not a threat to public safety and to public health,'" said Dalrymple. "They determined immediately that there was not a threat to the water supply, and not a threat to any people in the area. That, of course, is their main question."

Dalrymple says the volume of oil is secondary to the Health Department. He says he's considering a volume threshold – where there would be more information forthcoming when a spill reaches a certain volume. He says he also learned that since the federal government has primary regulatory oversight of crude oil pipelines, the rules are different.

"The federal rules actually only require the really good pressure sensors if a pipeline passes through water sources or through communities," said Dalrymple. "If it's just out in the open, the rules are less."

Dalrymple says that rule raises a lot of questions.

"Why wouldn't we care about the rural area?" said Dalrymple. "Shouldn't that also be important?"

Meanwhile, Dalrymple says executives from Tesoro will be coming to North Dakota to meet with him on the oil spill. He wants to talk to the company about why they don't have sensors on all pipelines.  Dalrymple says Tesoro is reviewing its own policies on pressure sensors.

"Apparently, they were looking into equipping this pipeline with pressure sensors," said Dalrymple. "Too bad -- it was just a little too late. But it stands to reason -- with that kind of volume of oil moving, it makes common sense to have a real time, remote pressure and flow sensor telling you exactly what's happening in your pipeline."

Dalrymple also says the state will consider whether it needs to have a more active oversight role in these kinds of pipelines.

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