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Critics urge more inclusive testimony on oil, gas permitting

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Citizens, lawmakers, environmentalists and labor groups on Monday blasted a proposal by North Dakota regulators that attempts to narrow the definition of an “interested party” who can testify on oil and gas proposals.

About a dozen people told the state Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division in Bismarck that a definition saying only “an individual or number of individuals that have a property ownership or management interest in or adjacent to the subject matter” can testify would limit citizen involvement and should be withdrawn.

“Public participation in the development of oil and gas in North Dakota should be more inclusive not more exclusive,” said Jan Swenson, executive director of the Badlands Conservation Alliance. “We would all benefit.”

No one spoke in favor of the definition. Similar meetings are slated this week in in Dickinson, Williston and Minot.

Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms, whose agency crafted the definition, said the intent is to clarify who is allowed to testify in oil and gas permitting cases, which are legal proceedings overseen by a hearing officer.

Helms said people who have no legal standing in permitting cases are appearing at hearings with “increasing frequency.”

The definition is within a broader set of new rules aimed at the oil industry, including a requirement to bond all crude and saltwater pipelines. Another new rule would require berms of at least a foot high to be built around a well site.

No one spoke in opposition to the enhanced rules under consideration by regulators.

The agency will accept written comments on the proposals until April 25. The rules could be in place by October if approved by the state Industrial Commission, a three-member all-Republican panel led by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring are its other members.

Related news, Governor says North Dakota is weathering energy, ag slump.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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