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Panel to talk about ‘special’ protection

January 21, 2014 12:00 am  •  By Nick Smith

BISMARCK, N.D. _ Members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission expect a thorough discussion but no formal action today on a proposal that would designate state landmarks as worthy of special protection from development.

The commission is holding a special meeting at 11 a.m. in the Pioneer Room of the state Capitol.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he’s unsure how much influence an organization funded by oil companies, which objects to the proposal, will have.

“That’s really kind of hard to determine,” Stenehjem said. “We weigh all the different facts that come in.”

The Tulsa, Okla.-based group called the Royalty Owners and Producers Education Coalition came out Monday against Stenehjem’s proposal, which he unveiled in December.

ROPE called on royalty owners to contact Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s office and urge his opposition to the proposal. The royalty owners said the proposal would keep nearly 1 million acres in North Dakota held by private landowners from development and that it infringes on their right to do so.

Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said the governor’s office has received a considerable amount of reaction from landowners, county officials and farm and ranch interests.

“The vast majority has been against the proposal,” Zent said.

Today’s meeting is expected to be a discussion meant to flesh out the proposal, he said.

“I know he (Dalrymple) doesn’t expect to make a motion for any action at this time,” Zent said.

The commission is made up of Stenehjem, Dalrymple and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Goehring has questioned the rules.

Stenehjem said he only learned of ROPE when contacted by the Tribune.

“I don’t know this group,” he said.

ROPE is funded by several oil companies including Continental Resources, the largest lessee of acreage for development in North Dakota.

“Some of what we’re hearing is not accurate,” Stenehjem said.

His proposal addresses energy development in what he called “extraordinary places” in the oil patch, but isn’t an outright ban on development, he said.

The rules include a list of 18 places recognized for special protection for reasons including historical and cultural value. They call for buffer zones from one-half mile to a maximum of two miles and would require an extensive mitigation plan by producers looking to drill in those areas.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Original Article

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