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Extensive changes proposed for Bakken pipeline monitoring

On Monday the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave a do-pass recommendation for a proposed bill which aims to improve North Dakota’s regulation of oil and saltwater pipelines and to clean up past spills.

The Grand Forks Herald reports that House Bill 1358 combines parts of four other bills. It was formulated after considering input submitted by the Northwest Landowners Association, members of the oil and gas industry, state agencies and lawmakers from both parties. As reported by The Herald, in a statement released by House Republican leadership, Rep. Dick Anderson said, “This will be one of the landmark pieces of legislation coming out of the 2015 Legislature.”

The proposed bill would require pipeline operators to install flow meters and approved pipeline leak detection systems. The additions would be overseen by the state’s Industrial Commission which regulates the state’s 20,000 miles of hydrocarbon gathering systems. Companies would also be required to submit design plans and have a qualified third party inspect them.

The Herald reports that Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said the bill was “good legislation” that will create “sweeping change” for the network of gathering systems. He added that although the changes would be positive, “I’m not sure everybody’s going to be happy.” The council represents over 500 companies involved in the oil and gas industry.

The Senate is also considering a similar, bipartisan bill with comparable requirements. Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, Senate Bill 2374 was prompted by a pipeline rupture last month. The damaged pipeline released an estimated three million gallons of saltwater north of Williston, contaminating the nearby Blacktail Creek. The incident is the largest saltwater spill in recent history.

The House bill plans to use $500,000 to research the best methods of removing salt from impacted and sterilized farmland around abandoned oil waste pits. An additional $1.5 million would be used to fund a pilot project to remediate oil- and gas-related incidents that occurred prior to 1983. Also, $1.5 million would be given to the Energy and Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks to examine pipeline standards, materials and monitoring systems. According to GOP committee members, the bill would also grant the public access to confidential information in the event of an uncontained spill and will tighten restrictions on wells that are temporarily abandoned.

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