Department of Mineral Resources Term Could Limit Public Input on Oil and Gas Proposals

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Public hearings are a way citizens can have their voices heard. Now, some North Dakotans are concerned a proposed Department of Mineral Resources term may limit testimony on oil and gas projects.

April 11, people gave their input on the issue.

About a dozen people testified against a proposed term drafted by the DMR.

Members of the community and environmentalists think the meaning of "Interested Party" is too restrictive for who can testify on oil and gas proposals.

Some North Dakotans are concerned testimony in meetings like these may be limited if a proposed rule drafted by the Oil and Gas Division of the Industrial Commission is approved.

"I just felt that it's important that people have an opportunity to say their peace whether they are a landowner, neighbor or whatever," said Lynn Seawolff, Dakota Resource Council, Fargo.

This definition of an "Interested Party" is what is causing the controversy. It is currently defined as "an individual or number of individuals that have a property ownership or management interest in, or adjacent to, the subject matter."

"The current definition goes way beyond just operators or working interest owners to include surface owners, mineral owners, and people that manage public lands," said Department of Mineral Resources, Director, Lynn Helms.

Critics say this meaning would limit citizen involvement and should be withdrawn.

"We want to make sure this is all done right. Because you know there are good ways and bad ways to do things and if we can make it better, let's make it better," said Seawolf.

"This would effect who had legal standing to appear and maybe take that commission decision to court," said Helms.

Hearings will be held April 12 in Dickinson, April 13 in Williston, and April 14 in Minot.

To see a list of hearing locations and to submit a written comment log on to dmr.nd.gov/oilgas.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission made up of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner will make the final decision.