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Burgum urges streamlining oil spill reporting

BISMARCK - Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday, Jan. 17, he supports efforts to streamline North Dakota oil spill reporting to make information more accessible to the public.

Doug Burgum, right, winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday, holds a press conference with running mate Brent Sanford on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Doug Burgum holds a press conference with Brent Sanford in Fargo, N.D. Michael Vosburg, Forum News Service

BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday, Jan. 17, he supports efforts to streamline North Dakota oil spill reporting to make information more accessible to the public.

The comments came as Burgum led his first meeting as chairman of the North Dakota Industrial Commission during discussion on a bill related to reporting on oilfield spills.

In addition to the legislative discussion, the various state agencies that investigate oilfield spills are working to develop a single reporting system rather than manage separate databases.

“In a world where data helps us solve problems, protect the environment, we’ve got to have clean data, and it’s got to be uniform and it’s got to be accessible and it’s got to be transparent,” Burgum said.

Burgum serves on the Industrial Commission with his former campaign opponent, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Though the two sparred last year during the primary race for governor, the mood was collegial during Tuesday’s meeting.

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Commissioners gave Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms the OK to suggest amendments on House Bill 1151, which would eliminate the requirement for oil companies to report spills that are contained to an oilfield location and less than 10 barrels.

The bill has industry support but was widely opposed by landowners at a committee hearing last week.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, the third member of the Industrial Commission, said he supports the 10-barrel threshold for crude oil and produced water but would want to require all quantities of other chemicals to be reported.

In addition to an amendment on the type of spill, Helms said he also plans to propose that the reporting threshold only be raised for well sites that are constructed with berms, an impermeable layer and other protections.

Also Tuesday, the commission agreed to continue providing waivers for idle oil wells while oil prices remain low and severe winter weather hinders production.

North Dakota had 1,519 inactive wells at the end of November that are uneconomic to produce under the current prices. The state also has an estimated 839 new wells that have been drilled but are uncompleted as operators delaying hydraulic fracturing until oil prices improve.

The commission extended a previous action to provide waivers for those idle wells, allowing them to remain on inactive or noncompleted status for up to one year.

The commission extended the waivers through June 30 and will revisit the issue at that time.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA
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