New Rules on Pipeline Infrastructure
The 63rd Legislative Session ended more than seven months ago, but the work as a result of the session hasn’t stopped. Over the course of the legislative interim, the North Dakota Petroleum Council has continued working with landowners groups, regulators and other key stakeholders to provide input in 47 new rules that will help increase transparency and efficiency in siting and locating new pipelines, processing facilities, treating and disposal sites, and in reducing truck traffic and flaring. Many of these new rules were drafted as a result of legislative directives.
Two bills that were passed into law last session and that led to the drafting of new rules include House Bill 1333 and HB 1147. Both will aid in building pipeline infrastructure more efficiently and quickly to better address major challenges facing the Bakken today, including reducing truck traffic and dust, capturing more natural gas and making our roads safer.
Building pipeline infrastructure can be a time-consuming process, and minor changes to the proposed route of a pipeline could cause construction delays of several days to several months, leading to continued flaring and truck traffic. The permitting process enacted as a result of HB 1147, however, will help eliminate unnecessary delays in building pipelines by allowing companies and landowners the flexibility to work together and make minor route variations within or slightly outside a pipeline’s permitted corridor at the request of a landowner or farmer during pipeline construction.
Strengthening the relationship between the industry and landowners was a key component in HB 1333, a bill that included many provisions, including expanded mediation, funding for an abandoned well fund, and a comprehensive location system for underground gathering pipelines that would be accessible to landowners and regulators, and creation of a regulatory structure for oil and saltwater gathering lines. North Dakota will be the only state to regulate these lines.
The NDPC worked with landowners groups and others to expand the North Dakota Mediation Service to include disputes related to easements to help the industry and landowners avoid litigation, save time and money, and resolve issues. Previously limited to construction of roads and well pads related to oil development, the service, which is operated by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, will now assist landowners and companies in resolving differences in the siting and construction of pipeline infrastructure, including water and saltwater lines, natural gas and crude pipelines and gathering systems.
Among the common concerns expressed by landowners in relation to pipelines is assurance of reclamation should the pipeline ever be decommissioned or in the case of a pipeline spill or leak. To help quell these concerns, additional funding is being directed to the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Plugging and Site Reclamation Fund, bringing the Fund’s total from $2 million to $75 million. While companies are still responsible for reclamation and clean-up of their facilities, the measure permanently brings the fund into the law and ensures landowners can get spills cleaned up should the company no longer exist or not have the funds.
Finally, gas and liquid gathering pipelines will be submitted into a mapping system to allow landowners or lessees to see the infrastructure that may underlie their properties. All gathering pipelines put into service after Aug. 1, will be included in the map by early 2015. The system will increase transparency and ensure efficient monitoring of all pipelines.
A third bill, HB 1348, allowed for new rules to move well-site equipment further from an occupied home. Under the rules, landowners may request that safety flares, holding tanks and treaters be moved further away from the home if the wells are located within 1,000 feet of the dwelling.
The Legislative Session included a number of bills that will have many positive outcomes for the responsible development of North Dakota’s oil and gas resources. Those related to pipeline infrastructure, however, remain the most important in alleviating the concerns expressed by most in western North Dakota, including truck traffic, dust and flaring.
The rules and regulations proposed by the Department of Mineral Resources are comprehensive and will further enhance the safety, monitoring and locating standards of the buildout of North Dakota’s pipeline infrastructure. This is good for landowners, good for regulators, and good for the industry.
Author: Tessa Sandstrom
North Dakota Petroleum Council