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Jack Dalrymple: N.D. must balance development and conservation

Jack Dalrymple

BISMARCK — A proposal before the North Dakota Industrial Commission to create a formal process for public comment on oil and gas drilling permits has generated a great deal of public comment in itself.

In my office, we have received more than 400 letters, email messages and phone calls from people who either oppose the “extraordinary places” proposal or support it.

County commissioners and mayors, farmers and ranchers, landowners and mineral owners as well as organizations including the Oil and Gas Producing Counties Association and the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association have contacted my office to voice their opposition to the proposal. They have shared valid concerns about unforeseen consequences on mineral owners and private property owners, and they have questions about the Industrial Commission’s authority to create another layer of regulation.

Representatives of the energy industry also have voiced their opposition. Many have said they oppose the draft policy because the Industrial Commission already has a process in place to safeguard special places and mitigate impacts within the state’s oil and gas region.

I also have received many phone calls, letters and emails from landowners, area residents and members of conservation groups and wildlife organizations who support the proposal. They view this as a chance to further protect North Dakota’s special places from development that changes the landscape for many years.

The public response that I and the other Industrial Commission members have received is very much appreciated and valuable in our efforts to draft a formal policy. So that everyone has an opportunity to provide input, we have extended the comment period until Feb. 25.

To review the current draft policy and provide comments, go to the North Dakota Industrial Commission website at

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has brought forward a proposal worthy of serious consideration. In essence, it would provide a formal process to gather public input regarding an oil company’s application for a permit to drill for oil around these extraordinary places and the company’s plans to mitigate impacts.

The state’s Oil and Gas Division, property owners and the energy industry already take steps to mitigate impacts. Oil regulators often impose stipulations on drilling permits that require companies to change the location of planned well pads. Spacing units are reoriented to minimize visual impacts, pump jacks are painted to blend into their environment, and a variety of other techniques are used to minimize impacts.

This proposal simply would allow for greater public input regarding areas considered extraordinary places.

There’s no doubt that public involvement can enhance the process. At the same time, we must never forget that private property owners and mineral owners have a right to develop their resources.

To protect the environment, the Industrial Commission has implemented some of the nation’s most stringent regulations involving oil and gas development. These enhanced regulations include a ban on the use of open pits, the mandatory disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process and rigorous standards on the development of underground gathering lines.

To mitigate the impacts of energy development, I recommended the establishment of the Outdoor Heritage Fund. I also asked the Legislature to provide funding for additional environmental inspectors in the Department of Health, more field inspectors in the Oil and Gas Division, more Highway Patrol troopers and more personnel to support our judiciary.

We’re making great progress in the development of affordable housing, and we’re investing billions of dollars to help residents in western North Dakota address a wide range of impacts that come with rapid growth.

By working together, we can continue to respect the rights of private property owners and mineral owners and mitigate adverse impacts from energy development at the same time. Energy development and effective land stewardship are not mutually exclusive.

We must always be prepared to adapt our response to achieve a sound balance so that we continue to build upon the quality of life that makes North Dakota a very special place.

Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, is governor of North Dakota.