Andy Peterson Column: "Extraordinary Places" Regulations At Odds With Law


When it comes to property rights few in North Dakota lack an opinion, which is why the Extraordinary Places proposal being considered by the state’s industrial commission is of concern to business and industry throughout the state. As recently as 2011 the legislature passed SB 2204 which effectively stated that any attempt by the federal government, or any governmental body for that matter, to include more land into a “heritage area” must first be considered by the legislature. The law goes as far to say “no further lands, water, property, or facilities may be designated as heritage areas within this state without the approval of the legislative assembly. The Extraordinary Places proposal seems to be at odds with the legislature and this law.

North Dakotans have a long and responsible record of development. We respect the land – whether we use it for agricultural, industrial, or energy – intending to pass it the next generations in a useable and valuable manner. This includes the use of reclamation for coal mining and our current oil and natural gas development. The point is, we have done this in the past, without an extraordinary places rule and we can and will continue to responsibly develop our resources. This rule is not needed.

A few in the political in the fringes disagree that energy development can be done in a responsible manner and postulate a more restrictive approach to the use of private property for energy development. Worse, is that the public may end up having say over how privately held property is developed for energy development. This is not to say regulation and oversight are bad. Rather, we have adequate regulatory oversight and that oversight ought to be matter between the property owner and the regulator. If the public receives the ability to influence the regulatory process it may well constrict the flow of capital to the industrial process. At the end of the day this means fewer jobs and less economic vitality in North Dakota.

SB 2204 – a law on the books already – confirms legislature intent; no other body has the right to interfere with property rights issues without involving the legislative body. Seemingly, this includes the industrial commission. As such, the law suggests that discussion and debate is welcome but over riding its mandate is unacceptable.

Given this reasoning it is safe to say the Extraordinary Places debate is healthy can good, but any decision must be referred to the legislative body, or rejected.