ND Oil Regulator: Federal Government Wants Authority Over All ND Drilling Permits

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North Dakota’s top oil regulator, Lynn Helms, told legislators yesterday that the federal government wants to try and force all drilling permits for North Dakota’s oil fields through the federal Fish and Wildlife Office.

The federal government holds oil production rights that are scattered across western North Dakota. Helms believes federal regulators can slow down drilling outside the federally owned national grasslands and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Helms says the federal Fish and Wildlife Service wants to control the issuance of drilling permits because of potential harm to some protected birds.

Here’s audio of Helms speaking to legislators, saying “the desire of US Fish and Wildlife is to force every drilling permit through their office.”

Of course, the environmentalists say Helms is just fear mongering. He’s seeing “a boogeyman behind every oil derrick,” according to Wayne Schaefer of the Sierra Club.

Helms is also warning of the potential of a bird which exists in western North Dakota being declared endangered, something Helms says could derail development of roads critical to oil development.

It’s called the Sprague’s Pipit (PIP’-it). North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources director Lynn Helms says the bird lives throughout western North Dakota – and it doesn’t cross roads.

Helms says the Sprague’s Pipit may be listed as an endangered species under federal law — and if it is, oil industry road building in western North Dakota could grind to a halt.

These are frightening developments given, as I pointed out yesterday, how dependent North Dakota’s state budget is on the windfall of tax revenue driven both directly and indirectly by the oil boom.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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