Legislation Would Stop Reporting Small, Contained Oil Spills


There has been a lot of negative attention paid to North Dakota over oil spills, and to a certain point it’s been justified. Oil spills aren’t good. They should get lots of attention. The public absolutely be aware when they happen.

But not all oil spills are equal. Some reporters and activist groups are fond of touting broad statistics about spills in North Dakota citing incident numbers and gallons (never barrels) spilled. But this can be misleading. Often small spills that are immediately contained by measures already in place at the site of the incident so that they have zero environmental impact can inflate the overall numbers.

North Dakota has very exacting requirements for reporting spills. Basically, every spill of any amount whether it’s contained or not gets immediately reported to the state. This is far more strict than the federal government’s threshold for reporting is 10 barrels (420 gallons).

Legislation aimed at changing this is before the 2017 session. Rep. Roscoe Streyle of Minot has introduced HB1151 which would stop the North Dakota Industrial Commission from requiring the report of any spill that’s less than 10 barrels and contained at the site of the incident.

In other words, Streyle’s legislation would raise the state’s threshold for reporting up to meet the federal threshold:

I like the change. Pinning at the federal threshold makes sense. In fact, I’m not so sure this shouldn’t go further to exclude reporting of any spills that have zero environmental impact.

Like spills that are entirely contained. Or spills like this one reported by the Department of Health which saw Continental Resources spilling 2,400 barrels of fresh water:

What possible public interest is this sort of report serving?

Should the Department of Health have to send out a report every time it rains? Or someone waters their lawn?

Let’s get real.

I’m sure the anti-oil zealots will hate this, and suggest it’s yet another example of North Dakota kowtowing to “Big Oil,” but I think reasonable people can understand that what needs to be reported are spills which have an impact on the environment.

Here’s the full bill:

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