By Rob Port | North Dakota Watchdog
BACK DOWN: North Dakota AG Wayne Stenehjem seemed to back off proposed “extraordinary places” regulations some suggested were overreach that could result in major legal delays for drilling permits.
BISMARCK, N.D. — Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem seems to have backed off a plan to bring stiffer regulations for oil drilling near designated “extraordinary places” in North Dakota.
at a meeting of the yesterday, winning unanimous approval for a change in commission policy instead of a formal rule change.
Stenehjem, who is a member of the State Industrial Commission along with Gov. Jack Dalrymlpe and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, at Wednesday’s meeting proposed a policy change requiring drilling applications near one of 18 defined “extraordinary places” in the state be assigned to someone in the commission’s Department of Mineral Resources to help mitigate impacts on the cosmetic and environmental properties of the area.
Dalrymple noted this already is being done by the commission informally, and that Stenehjem’s policy change would formalize that policy. The commission then cast a unanimous vote in favor of the policy change, with Goehring voting remotely from Africa.
The outcome is not what many observers were expecting.
Representatives of mineral rights owners had said the regulations could open up the drilling-approval process to major legal delays.
“Currently, if you’re a citizen and you protest a drilling location and the Industrial Commission issues the permit, basically as that citizen who protested you’ve lost, and you have to take your lumps and go on about your business,” Royalty Owners and Producers Educational Coalition President Jerry Simmons said in an interview. “The way we understand this new rule is you now have standing so you could bring legal action or simply drag it out through continuing to protest a permit application. We see this as potentially harmful to the private property owners.”
ROPE has been calling on the public to oppose the proposal by emailing and calling Dalrymple, who was seen as a swing vote on the issue.
The proposal also received opposition from state legislators. State Rep. Roscoe Streyle, a Republican from Minot, suggested that the commission might not have the authority to implement the tougher regulations. State Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, suggested in a letter to the commission that the proposal was “overreach.”
Stenehjem couldn’t be reached for comment after the meeting. His office said he was attending to a family emergency.
Contact Rob Port at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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