Members of the legislative Energy Development and Transmission Committee have rejected a bill which could remove public votes on landfills and solid waste disposals related to oil and natural gas exploration.
Todd Leake farms southwest of Grand Forks, and testified before the committee against the bill. He says the bill is another example of the oil industry bypassing the rights of counties in North Dakota. Leake says the waste in question may be labeled as "non-hazardous" by the EPA, but the opposite is true.
"It's still hazardous waste. It's full of benzyne, it's full of diesel, hexane, other chemicals which are carcinogens that destroy ground water resources and aquifers if they leach into them because you cannot use that. You can't filter it out because it's not usable, by law."
Williams County Commissioner Barry Ramberg says he wants counties to continue to have the power to take care of the issue themselves. He says his county commission has already approved some of these types of landfills. Senator Rich Wardner from Dickinson chairs the committee, and was appreciative.
"I just want to compliment you and your fellow commissioners for going through the process and having some landfills in North Dakota."
"We're not trying to shove it onto somebody - we're trying to take care of it on our own," Ramberg said.
"So I commend you for that," Wardner said. "If you don't have a place for it, they do like they did in Noonan with those socks up there at the gas station."
"Well, you can't regulate morality," Ramberg said.
Dave Glatt is Environmental Health Chief with the North Dakota Department of Health, and says there is already a detailed process in place that allows for public comment to be considered in the siting of these landfills.
"At present the law provides several opportunities for public comment and review. Since the law has been in effect, there has been only one special election called to address a proposed oilfield landfill operation. That landfill passed the special election and is in operation. In my opinion, special elections have not been a hindrance to permitting landfill operations."
No motions were made to move the bill forward.