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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published April 08 2013

Lawmakers say bills will address many landowner problems in West

BISMARCK – Landowners and mineral producers should be able to settle their disputes easier with three bills Republican lawmakers say will create a benchmark for other states to look to when it comes to oil and gas development.

During a news conference Monday, lawmakers highlighted three pieces of legislation that will create a fund for oil cleanup, allow landowners and mineral developers to use state mediation services and require more pipeline information for mapping purposes and extra space between a permanent dwelling and oil machinery.

Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, said the bills address problems of the people out west.

“I’m confident a huge hurdle has been crossed in making North Dakota a forward-looking energy state,” he said, particularly about his bill, House Bill 1333.

The bill, which is awaiting Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s signature, creates a state fund under the Industrial Commission to pay for cleanup of oil spills when no responsible party is found.

The bill creates an abandoned oil and gas well plugging and site reclamation fund, using revenues from the oil and gas permits, bonds, federal funding and 4 percent of an oil and gas production tax. The fund cannot exceed $5 million in collections a year and is capped at $75 million.

The bill also requires oil and gas pipeline companies to provide a map of the lines to the Industrial Commission, which will be available to landowners.

Rep. Bob Hunskor, D-Newburg, said the bills have been pushed by the Northwest Landowners Association, whose mission is to “help maintain a balance in resource development and property rights of individuals in a responsible manner.”

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