The chief of the state Health Department’s environmental health section says his department is working on ways to let the public know about oil spills and other hazardous material incidents.

New natural gas pipeline 'open for business'

Oct 30, 2013
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An 80 mile long, $170 million natural gas pipeline is now ready for gas.

It’s called the Tioga Lateral Pipeline – and it will connect the Hess gas plant in Tioga with the Alliance Pipeline. It’ll move the Bakken gas to Chicago. And it will move both regular gas and liquefied natural gas. The line will have a capacity of 126 million cubic feet of natural gas each day.

Alliance says the new line will help reduce the flaring of natural gas.

The Public Service Commission will be looking at a settlement agreement – reached between Montana-Dakota Utilities and PSC staff – on MDU’s latest request for a natural gas rate increase.

MDU had filed for a 6.4 percent increase – or about $6.8 million. It also filed for interim rates – in the amount of 4.5 million dollars.

The settlement agreement says MDU will get a $4.25 million rate increase.  And because the interim rates have NOT yet been implemented, MDU agrees to hold to that figure for the interim rates, until the PSC makes the final ruling.

PSC will study regulating in-state oil pipelines

Oct 24, 2013

The Public Service Commission will be looking at whether it should assume more authority over in-state crude oil pipelines.

The PSC has siting authority – but once the pipe is in the ground, federal regulations take over. It’s different for the intra-state natural gas pipelines, where the PSC employs pipeline inspectors.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says it’s not easy to explain to the public.

Investigation continues into Tesoro pipeline spill

Oct 24, 2013

The investigation continues into what caused a big oil pipeline leak near Tioga.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, the results may lead to more strict rules about which pipelines need better monitoring – and how often they should be monitored.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An oil well that could have been drilled within 300 feet of the historic Elkhorn Ranch site will instead be drilled from a well pad more than two miles away.

The original plan would have been within feet of the boundary of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Instead, XTO Energy will use an existing pad on private land.

The state Industrial Commission approved that plan. Lynn Helms is the state’s mineral resources director. He told the Commission the Badlands Conservation Alliance had asked for a moratorium on drilling near the Elkhorn Ranch site.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An oil and gas industry task force has been meeting to find ways to reduce the amount of natural gas being flared in the Bakken.

About 30 percent of the natural gas is being flared. Industry leaders say the problem used to be a shortage of natural gas processing plants.

Task force member Lance Langford -- an executive with Statoil -- says that issue is being solved. But he told the state Industrial Commission there's a different problem now.

"Now today, the major problem is gathering," said Langford. "Gathering the gas and moving it to the processing plants."

It's one of the consequences of oil development in the Bakken -- naturally-occurring radioactive materials collect in pipelines and pits.

The state Health Department has regulatory oversight of that material. And Department Environmental chief Dave Glatt says about ten to 15 thousand tons of the material is generated every year. He told a Legislative committee North Dakota does not have licensed radioactive disposal facilities.

Black Gold Boom: A Fresh Start

Oct 17, 2013

Like just about every other new worker in North Dakota oil country, Elsie Ejismekwu came here for the money. She’s earning it by working two jobs in the Watford City area. By day she’s a trucker and at night she’s a cabbie. Ejismekwu told Black Gold Boom reporter Todd Melby she likes both gigs and a few other things about western North Dakota.

That’s Elsie Ejismekwu, a trucker and cabbie in North Dakota’s oil patch. She spoke to Black Gold Boom reporter Todd Melby.

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.