Bills Add Regulations, Research For Pipelines

BISMARCK – House lawmakers unanimously approved Monday what has been called “landmark legislation” to strengthen regulations of oil and saltwater gathering pipelines.

House Bill 1358 incorporated the best ideas from five bills that dealt with pipelines as well as other issues that have frustrated landowners, said Rep. Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck.

The bill requires gathering pipelines installed after Aug. 1 to have flow meters, over-pressure devices or an approved pipeline leak detection system as required by the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

Companies also would have to submit engineered design plans and put up a bond for the pipelines, and a qualified third party would have to inspect them. The bill also requires that gathering pipelines have bonds.

The bill includes $1.5 million for a pilot project to clean up oil- and gas-related issues that occurred before 1983 where there’s no responsible party. It also includes $500,000 to identify best practices for removing salt from soil surrounding abandoned oil waste pits in north-central North Dakota, where saltwater has sterilized pockets of farmland.

The Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota would receive $1.5 million to study pipeline standards, materials and monitoring systems.

“We think this is a critical step in identifying the root cause of spills, researching new technologies, construction standards and conducting a comparison of other states to determine best practices and spill ratios,” Nathe said.

The bill would allow landowners to ask for a review of wells that have been placed on temporarily abandoned status for seven years and companies would have to validate why the well should remain on temporarily abandoned status.

House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, said the bill had a lot of good provisions and he urged representatives to support it.

The bill also makes public information about spills that occur on confidential wells when more than 10 barrels spills off of the location.

The bill has an emergency clause, which means the funding would become available before the next biennium.

“This is important research and we can’t afford to miss a summer when this work could take place,” Nathe said.

The Senate approved similar legislation addressing pipelines in Senate Bill 2374 last week. The chambers will reconcile the two bills in the coming weeks of the session.