ND House Passes Bill To Hide Oil Spills: Landowners Oppose It

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A bill reducing the number of oil spills reported in North Dakota was approved by the ND House on Wednesday, Jan. 25, but a landowner group has vowed to continue fighting the bill.

House legislators voted 82-11 in favor of House Bill 1151, which would no longer require companies to report spills of crude oil, produced water or natural gas that are contained to a well site or production location and are less than 10 barrels, or 420 gallons, reported The West Fargo Pioneer.

“It will make government more efficient by focusing resources on spills that pose a threat to health, safety and the environment,” said Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City, noting that the bill does not change the requirement to clean up all spills.

The committee meeting lasted 2 hours and, as expected, the bill was supported by the oil industry and opposed by landowners who will be negatively effected by the lack of reporting.

The Northwest Landowners Association, which represents 500 farmers, ranchers and property owners, will continue to fight the bill while it is under consideration by the Senate, said Chairman Troy Coons.

“It feels like it goes against protecting our environment and our property,” he said. “It goes against who North Dakotans are.”

Coons said landowners want oil companies to report all spills that are above 1 barrel, or 42 gallons, regardless of the location of the spill.

Apparently there are so many spills that they are becoming a burden for the state to track, according to the bill’s supporters.

Supporters of the bill say reporting small spills that are contained to sites designed to protect the environment is an administrative burden on the state. But there was no fiscal note with the bill so it’s unclear what cost savings the bill would provide.

When asked how much time the bill would save staff at the Department of Mineral Resources, spokeswoman Alison Ritter said “probably not much.”

Oil and gas field inspectors do not immediately respond to a spill of 10 barrels or less that is contained on site, Ritter said. During routine inspections, staff check on possible spills to ensure they have been cleaned up, she said.

The North Dakota Department of Health would not be affected by the bill because the agency does not respond to spills contained to oilfield sites.

It seems like this bill will only benefit the oil industry. They will be able to hide some of their oil spills from everyone and try to improve the public image, but it is a loss for landowners and everyone else.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)

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