Are North Dakota’s Tough New Oil Regulations About Safety Or Jack Dalrymple’s Re-Election Campaign?
The North Dakota Industrial Commission presented a bundle of new, sweeping regulations on oil drilling and fracking to the legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee this week, and they’ve now been approved. They’ll take effect in April.
The Dickinson Press has a summary of what they entail:
Dumping liquid drilling wastes into an open pit is banned under the new rules, except in cases where the oil well is less than 5,000 feet deep. Instead of going into pits, the liquid wastes will have to be disposed of at authorized sites or stored in tanks.
The so-called reserve pits came under scrutiny last year when heavy spring flooding swamped some 30 of them, despite warnings from regulators to shore them up. Regulators later levied $3 million in fines against 19 companies that failed to protect oil field waste pits from spring flooding.
The new rules require that existing waste pits be emptied and reclaimed within a year.
In addition, companies also will be required to disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The rules also call for tougher requirements related to the construction of wells to ensure that the groundwater is protected, Ritter said.
On one hand, spring flooding did cause quite a mess with several of these waste pits. On the other hand, last year’s winter and spring were a pretty extreme example of North Dakota weather. We had catastrophic flooding statewide. Given the unusual weather conditions, I rather thought the impact on the waste pits was actually pretty contained.
And the new requirement to disclose fracking chemicals stinks suspiciously of a cave to the noisy minority of anti-fracking activists.
According to the North Dakota Petroleum Council, these new regulations are some of the toughest in the nation now, and would cost oil producers an additional $400,000 per well. Ron Ness from the NDPC says he knows of one company that has already pulled out of the state over the regulations, though he declined to name the company.
What makes me suspicious of these regulations is just how much of a change they represent. North Dakota is famous for regulating with a pretty light touch. Smacking regulations that will add costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per well all in one go makes me think that this was less about regulation, and more about a bunch of sensitive politicians (particularly Governor Dalrymple who is on the State Industrial Commission) who know they will have Democrats on their left flank (particularly Dalrymple’s opponent Ryan Taylor) fanning the flames of contention over oil impact.
Add in a largely Fargo-based state media that has proven itself to be anti-oil, and will likely be willing to rake Republicans over the coal for being too oil-friendly, and you really begin to wonder.
Call me crazy, but I this seems more like a preemptive political strike than prudent regulation.Tags: bakken, jack dalrymple, North Dakota News, oil, ryan taylor