ANTLER, N.D. – As state officials met in Bismarck to approve new oil conditioning standards and to discuss the drop in crude oil prices, landowners from the Oil Patch gathered at a separate meeting to review a different side of the Bakken oil boom – spills, soil contamination and landowner rights.

Landowners gathered in Antler, north of Minot near the U.S.-Canadian border, on Tuesday and discussed with David Glatt, director of the state Department of Health, how the state is working to limit harmful spills, improve land reclamation and protect the rights of North Dakotans.

The small group that gathered decided a meeting involving more of the players in the game was needed, along with more in depth discussions and explanations about policies.

Organized by state Reps. Bob Hunskor, D-Newburg and Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, the meeting was also supposed to include the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms, but he was at the state Industrial Commission meeting on oil conditioning in Bismarck.

The state representatives, who have only a small voice in the Republican-dominated state Legislature, said the meeting was meant to improve communication between the landowners and the state agencies regulating the oil industry.

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“How do we make things better?” Hunskor asked. “The oil companies are not going anywhere anytime soon and landowners aren’t leaving.”

Many of the frustrations voiced during the meeting stemmed from the perception that state officials have bowed to the interests of oil companies to the detriment of landowners – a growing concern in the state.

“I’m disappointed with the governor,” landowner Pete Artz said. “I believe they let the flood of money take over.”

The meeting comes two weeks after The New York Times published two investigative stories that quantified the number of oil and saltwater spills in the state and questioned the way the Industrial Commission regulates an industry that it also promotes.

Those stories also covered how the Industrial Commission commonly reduces fines for companies that violate regulations, a practice Helms and Gov. Jack Dalrymple said helps to foster cooperation between the oil companies and the state.