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Pipeline company gets approval for a pipeline conversion, after it had happened

Dave Thompson
Prairie Public

The Public Service Commission has approved a plan to convert about 20 miles of 8-inch oil pipeline in McKenzie County from a gathering line to a transmission line.

But that approval came after the company – Belle Fourche – already made the conversion.

Gathering lines are less regulated than transmission lines.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said PSC staff will be having some conversations with the company about the right way to make these conversions. She said she wants to deter companies from taking this approach. That could lead to financial penalties.

"They need to take it seriously, that this is what the law requires," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said she also had some concerns about the company’s record concerning oil spills, as did the state Health Department. A spill in 2017 meant oil went into the Ash Coulee Creek. Fedorchak said the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is conducting an audit of the company’s leak detection and spill cleanup procedures – and that could result in some changes.

"They (Belle Fourche) are developing an entirely new system," Fedorchak said. "They couldn't go into the details, but they say they felt it was going to be a cutting-edge system for monitoring pipelines."

Commission chairman Brian Kroshus said he wanted to stress that the companies need to know the rules and regulations.

"They're very easy to find," Kroshus said. "You can go online and see what the siting criteria is, what qualifies and doesn't qualify as a transmission line."

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