How the shutdown is impacting the oil industry

The partial government shutdown is into its fourth week. It's impacting all sorts of sectors, including the oil and gas industry. There are three main areas of the shutdown that are creating ripple effects in western North Dakota. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service workers are furloughed, meaning the work the state and oil companies are doing with them can't get done.

Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms says if you're looking for a right of way on Indian lands you're out of luck. Usually the BIA is approving one permit a day, but since they're closed, there's probably about 20 or so waiting. However, the effects most likely won't be felt too badly until spring.

“If we see it drag on for two or three times this long then there's going to be enough of a backlog that it will impact things in May or June,” Helms said.

He says another issue lies with the BLM. His department was going through negotiations with them and tribes on federal regulation of flaring, but those have come to a standstill.

“We were making a lot of progress, but even when we come to a full agreement with the staff that we were working with, it’s going to have to go through the solicitor's office in Washington D.C.,” Helms said.

They were hoping to have an agreement in place by the beginning of February. He says the third issue lies with the Forest Service. Changes have been proposed for the way the Dakota Prairie Grasslands does oil and gas leasing. Public comment was extended once until Wednesday, but there's no one in the offices to accept new comments or grant another extension. Helms says another extension could be granted for the grasslands once workers return from the shutdown.