Chairman of Senate energy committee tours Bakken

Sen. John Hoeven, left, and Sen. Ron Wyden, right, tour a drilling location near Watford City, N.D., with Blaine Hoffmann of Whiting Oil and Gas Corp. on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WATFORD CITY, N.D. – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources said Friday he’s not in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach to regulating energy.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is taking a two-day tour of the Bakken to learn more about the state’s oil and gas development.

During the tour, Wyden sought input from industry and community leaders about what federal policies would help keep North Dakota’s energy development moving forward while protecting the environment.

Wyden said he’s considering an approach that would give states “wide berth” in regulating energy development that occurs below ground because the states best know the geology and the science.

“Geology differs in different parts of the country,” Wyden said.

But the federal government may have an appropriate role on the transparency side, such as regulating spill reports or chemical reporting, Wyden said.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who advocates a “states-first, all-of-the-above” approach to energy development, invited Wyden to North Dakota to see the Bakken development firsthand.

“We want to show him we can do it, and we can do a good job,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven recently invited Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to North Dakota to emphasize the same states-first message. Jewell said while she considers North Dakota’s hydraulic fracturing regulations to be sophisticated, not all states have developed such regulations.

Friday, the group toured a drilling rig and hydraulic fracturing site near Watford City, visited a gas plant and held a roundtable discussion with community leaders. They also toured the Great River Energy Coal Creek power plant and the Blue Flint Ethanol biorefinery.

Today, the senators will visit a crew camp that houses oilfield workers in Williston and take a driving tour.

Wyden said he’s been touring areas around the country to see various parts of energy supply and distribution. In North Dakota, he’s particularly interested in infrastructure questions.

While driving through a congested Watford City intersection, Hoeven pointed out the oil trucks that could be taken off the road if the Keystone XL Pipeline were approved.

Wyden has called the Keystone XL Pipeline an “environmentally risky and economically dubious project that would have boosted the balance sheets of oil producers at the expense of American families.”

But even though the two have differed on some issues, they also have common ground and are working hard to find bipartisan solutions, Hoeven said.

Jack Ekstrom, vice president for corporate and government relations for Whiting Oil and Gas Corp., emphasized to Wyden that the industry is highly technical and professional with employees who care about protecting the environment.

“Most of our employees live and work here and care about where they live and work,” Ekstrom said.

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