BISMARCK – House lawmakers voted 91-1 Tuesday to enhance the regulation of gathering pipelines, but language that would have required leak-detection technology was stripped from the bill.
House Bill 1358 builds on what lawmakers approved two years ago when the state first decided to begin regulating more than 20,000 miles of gathering pipelines that transport oil, saltwater and other liquids.
An earlier version of the bill would have required pipelines installed after Aug. 1 to have flow meters, overpressure protection devices or an alternative leak detection and monitoring technology approved by the North Dakota Industrial Commission.
The final bill, now adopted by both the House and Senate, instead calls for the Energy and Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota to study pipeline technology and make recommendations by Dec. 1. The bill provides $1.5 million for the study.
The bill directs the North Dakota Industrial Commission to adopt new administrative rules following that study to improve pipeline safety and integrity.
State Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the technology requirements were taken out of the bill because recent spills have shown that what’s currently being used is not effective.
“You can put all the safety bells and whistles you want on the system, and if they can’t detect the leak, then what good are they?” Porter said.
House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, said he thinks the bill is a step in the right direction, but said it doesn’t go far enough to address concerns of landowners and prevent future spills.
“I don’t believe the industry is going to make those corrections unless they’re required to make those corrections,” Onstad said.
The bill also requires pipeline operators to provide the Industrial Commission with pipeline engineering plans and drawings, a list of independent inspectors who will inspect the pipeline and a plan for leak detection and monitoring.
The legislation requires pipeline operators to file within 60 days an independent certificate of a test performed on the gathering pipeline.
“It’s an enormous change from the way things were before,” said Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources.
The bill provides $1.5 million to clean up after oil and gas issues that date before 1983.
State Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City, who represents Bottineau and Renville counties, said many of those dollars will be directed to address legacy oilfield damage in his home area.
“There are some messes up there and this bill is going to help clean it up,” Anderson said.
In addition, the bill provides $500,000 for a pilot project to identify best practices for soil remediation. It also allows the Industrial Commission to require a bond on gathering pipelines.
The bill now goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple for his signature. It contains an emergency clause, so funding for the EERC study could be distributed as soon as it’s signed.
Mike Nowatzki contributed to this report.