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‘Interested party’ definition draws fire at ND oil and gas rules hearing

Wendy Hart Ross, National Park Service superintendent at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, testifies against a rule change proposed by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources that she says would limit the federal agency's ability to comment on oil and gas permits during a public hearing Monday, April 11, 2016, in Bismarck. Photo by Mike Nowatzki / Forum News Service

BISMARCK – Conservation groups, labor unions and the National Park Service on Monday, April 11, slammed a proposed rule that they worry would limit public input on oil and gas matters by defining an “interested party” as a landowner or property manager.

“I just can’t fathom why you would want to be known as the North Dakota government body that makes its citizens unwelcome,” Laura Anhalt of Bismarck, a Badlands Conservation Alliance board member, testified during a public hearing held by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

About 50 people attended Monday’s hearing in Bismarck, the first of four being held this week in western North Dakota on the department’s proposed rule changes that regulators say aim to reduce spills and minimize the environmental impacts of oil and gas development.

Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said the proposed definition for interested party -- currently there isn’t one in the rules -- is an attempt to try to figure out who has legal standing to testify in oil and gas permit cases, which are legal proceedings.

The proposed rule would define interested party as “an individual or number of individuals that have a property ownership or management interest in or adjacent to the subject matter.”

No one spoke in opposition to the other proposed rules, which include new bonding requirements and guidelines for installing gathering pipelines, 1-foot perimeter dikes around well sites and oilfield facilities and requirements for third-party inspections.

The hearings continue Tuesday in Dickinson, Wednesday in Williston and Thursday in Minot. Written comments will be accepted through 5 p.m. April 25.

Helms said the rules could take effect as early as Oct. 1 if the Industrial Commission approves them at its June or July meeting.   

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at