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Landowners report mixed success at Legislature

Representatives of the Northwest Landowners Association (NWLA) reported mixed success last week after taking part in intense legislative committee and subcommittee meetings in Bismarck.

2/20/13 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

Representatives of the Northwest Landowners Association (NWLA) reported mixed success last week after taking part in intense legislative committee and subcommittee meetings in Bismarck.

NWLA vice-chairman Troy Coons noted progress on HB 1333, which was not introduced by the NWLA but does address the location, definitions for and mediation for pipeline facilities and reclamation of pipeline facilities. Members of the NWLA have an interest in more thorough monitoring and oversight of the gathering and feeder pipelines in place and under construction, and the NWLA supported HB 1347 about requirements for controls on gas and liquid gathering transmission lines.

At one point, according to Coons, the House Natural Resources Committee considered combining the two bills. Instead, the bills remained separate, with HB 1347 defeated 86-4 in a vote taken by the House on February 13th.

On the other hand, Coons said HB 1333 is still under consideration, with amendments proposed last week during the committee meetings to address saltwater disposal wells and potential spills. “We worked on that all morning and last night,” he said last Friday, “and that has now been referred to the Appropriations Committee.”

A vote on HB 1333 had not been scheduled in the House as of Tuesday. The Natural Resources Committee gave the bill a Do Pass recommendation.

Setbacks still an issue
Coons said HB 1348, relating to setbacks for oil and gas wells and increasing the current distance from 500 feet to 1,320 feet from any permanently occupied dwellings, has received a great deal of attention and discussion.

“We’ve negotiated with the North Dakota Petroleum Council and [ND Oil & Gas Division director] Lynn Helms on this,” he said.

As of Friday, Coons reported revisions in the bill that included notification for any owner or resident of a dwelling within 1,320 feet of a proposed well site. The well bore itself may remain at 500 feet, while flares or other equipment must be located on the opposite side of the well bore if the site is between 500 and 1000 feet from a dwelling.

“We couldn’t make any progress on the setback distance itself,” Coons said, “but we moved the hazardous elements farther away from the dwelling and we felt good about that.”

He said the Natural Resources Committee gave the amended bill a 11-0 Do Pass recommendation Thursday, and the amendment was placed on the House calendar Monday for further action.

Status of remaining NWLA bills
•HB 1349, related to reclamation and surface owner protection, received a Do Pass recommendation from the Natural Resources Committee with an amendment to provide for a legislative management study of reclamation standards. The full House adopted the amendment to the bill on February 13th, but defeated the bill that day with a 61-28 vote.

•HB 1350, related to the statute of limitations for actions for injury due to oil and gas production, has now been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. This bill passed the House unanimously on February 4th and was immediately sent to the Senate.

•HB 1352, relating to mediation in disputes between mineral developers and surface owners, has also been passed by the House. The Natural Resources Committee amended the bill to include details about the conflict description and proposed resolution, as well as compensation for mediators involved in the process. HB 1352 had a Do Pass recommendation from the committee and passed the House 91-0 on February 14th.

•HB 1355, relating to details about the definition of the commencement of drilling operations on an oil and gas lease, was amended to include details about well site and drill site preparation and operations. The bill has seen mixed success, with the first version receiving a Do Pass recommendation on a 12-0 vote of the committee on February 12th.

However, the bill was sent back to the committee on February 13th and amended a second time, with a Do Not Pass recommendation on a split 7-6 vote announced February 14th. The House adopted the amendment February 15th and placed the bill on the calendar for a vote.

Waiting for crossover
Coons said he was generally pleased with progress made for members represented by the NWLA. He and NWLA board chairman Myron Hanson, Souris, continue their work with NWLA lobbyist Derrick Braaten of Baumstark, Braaten Law Partners, Bismarck.

The landowners’ issues have attracted broader attention in recent weeks, with Coons appearing on the “News and Views” radio program with host Joel Heitkamp.

Coons said NWLA has also become a sponsor of “The Legislature Today” radio show on KFGO, broadcast five nights each week from 7 to 9 pm. Coons expects to have an opportunity to discuss the landowners’ issues and progress on the bills as they remain under consideration by the legislature.

In the meantime, the NWLA is awaiting final votes on the bills remaining in the House. “Everything is out of our hands for a little bit,” said Coons. “Things will be fairly quiet until crossover. Then we have the bills on the Senate side and we start all over again with testimony.”

The 63rd Legislative Assembly has a March 1st deadline for crossover of bills between the two chambers.

More information about the NWLA is available online at www.nwlandowners.com. The organization can be reached by email at contactus@nwlandowners.com.

As the legislative session progresses, Coons expects to keep NWLA members updated on the progress of the proposals. He encouraged landowners with further questions to contact him at 701-482-7865 or Hanson at 701-243-6386.

Other board members who can answer questions and provide information about NWLA include Galen Peterson of Maxbass, secretary; Bob Grant of Berthold, treasurer; David King of Kenmare; Bryan Ankenbauer and David Bird, both of Bowbells; Aaron Jacobson of Noonan; Daryl and Betty Belik of Tioga; Jim Dahl and Thomas Wheeler, both of Ray; Lance Kjelshus of Souris; and Daryl Peterson of Antler.