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Proposed Industrial Commission Rules could severely restrict public engagement

By Staff | Apr 15, 2016

The North Dakota Industrial Commission held its last public hearing on Thursday in Minot about proposed rule changes in the Oil & Gas Division. Over 40 people packed a small conference meant to hold 20 to listen to testimony.

The proposed NDIC rule would define “interested party’ in the NDIC Rules & Regulations Chapter 43-02-03-01 as “an individual or number of individuals that have a property ownership or management interest in or adjacent to the subject matter”. “Interested Party” has never been defined before in NDIC rules and regulations.

Few testified at the Minot meeting, though in the past three days’ dozens of people have testified in Bismarck, Dickinson, and Williston against the proposed rule change. Troy Coons, chairman of the Northwest Area Land Owners, testified in Minot on Thursday that the rule may in fact be unconstitutional and was certainly exclusionary. Marvin Nelson, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, also testified against the proposed rule. No one at the Minot meeting publicly testified in favor of the rule change.

Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms has previously commented that the proposed definition “aims to clarify who has legal standing in oil and gas permit hearings, which are legal proceedings”. Helms noted concern that people or groups with no legal standing were testifying. It is still unclear if the NDIC would enforce this general rule change in all of their hearings or just in the permitting process.

North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness said they are trying to find a way to separate people with a direct interest from those with only indirect or tangential interests in a project. “The challenge is when you have competing interests, how do you determine where the weight should be given?” he said.

However, numerous people have testified that the proposed definition is so limiting that other landowners down wind and downstream of a proposed project, or citizens living in a neighboring town, would be unable to publicly comment in future hearings. Others contended that only landowners could ever speak up publicly, effectively disenfranchising non-landowning citizens.

The NDIC is accepting written letters of concern until Monday, April 25th, and could vote on adopting these rules at their June or July meeting, with them taking effect as early as October 1st. Audio recordings of the hearings and copies of the proposed rules are available on the Industrial Commission’s website www.dmr.nd.gov/oilgas.

Interested parties may submit letters to the Industrial Commission by 5pm April 25th:

Office of ND Oil & Gas Division

600 E Boulevard Ave, Dept. 405

Bismarck, ND 58505-0840

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