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Energy & Environment

Industrial Commission approved revised oil rules

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The state Mineral Resources Department has come up with some oil and gas rule revisions that an industry spokesman says are much clearer than first proposed.

And the state Industrial Commission has signed off on the changes.

The proposed rules put new regulations on when containment berms have to be built on oil well pads. They also require wells to be at least 500 feet away from an occupied residence. And they set bonding requirements for crude oil pipelines.

The Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee rejected the first draft of the proposed regulations as being too broad – and sent them back to clarification. State mineral resources director Lynn Helms said the “berm” rule underwent significant changes.

"There's 14,000 sites out there, and the original proposal said you have to berm them all, except for the ones you don't have to berm," Helms told the Commission. "This now says, under these criteria, these are the ones you have to berm. And you have six months to get the berm built. It's much more enforceable, and much clearer."

Helms told the Commission these are unprecedented rules among oil and gas states.

"We're the tip of the spear," Helms said.

North Dakota Petroleum Council president Ron Ness said the rules are very stringent – but the changes make them more clear.

"Without this clarification, the obligation was on you, unless you got an exemption on berming them," Ness told reporters. "Now it will be in the hands of regulators."

Nelss said the six months for completion requirement is very reasonable.

"It's a much better approach, handling it case-by-case, than just a blanket requirement," Ness said.

The earlier draft of the rules gave the Industrial Commission regulatory authority over natural gas gathering pipeline. The Administrative Rules Committee turned that down, saying it was not part of the Legislatve intent during the 2015 session. The new version removed those rules.

The Committee will get a look at the new draft in its December meeting. If approved, the new rules would take effect Jan. 1.

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