DEM-NPL Legislators Push for Spill Transparency, Increased State Role in Pipeline Safety

DEM-NPL Legislators Push for Spill Transparency, Increased State Role in Pipeline Safety

Legislators to call for draft bill, interim study in aftermath of Tioga oil spill

(BISMARCK, ND) – North Dakota Democratic-NPL legislators today announced an effort to require public disclosure of spills of hazardous materials and ensure North Dakota state agencies have the authority necessary to ensure pipeline safety. The legislators’ action comes after receiving information from the North Dakota Department of Health regarding the state’s response to the recent oil spill near Tioga.

“When a 20,000 barrel oil spill goes undisclosed to North Dakotans for well over a week, and only then after being reported on by the media, that is a failure,” said Representative Kenton Onstad, Dem-NPL House Leader. “That is why we will be working with legislators of both parties and state agencies in the coming months to ensure that when state officials know of spills of hazardous materials, so will the public.”

“We believe that openness and transparency build public trust rather than causing alarm,” added Dem-NPL Senate Leader Mac Schneider. “Maintaining that trust is more important than ever as we work towards the important goal of increasing North Dakota’s pipeline capacity. By providing officials who answer to the people of North Dakota with additional power to sensibly protect our land and water, we can show that oil development and good stewardship go hand in hand.”

The legislators’ efforts will be led by Senator Connie Triplett of Grand Forks, a member of the interim Energy Transmission and Development Committee, which meets Thursday, October 31 in Bismarck. At the committee’s meeting, Triplett will ask Legislative Counsel staff attorneys to begin drafting legislation which requires hazardous material spills that must be reported to the state under current law to also be posted on a publicly-accessible state agency website.

The legislators will also ask Legislative Management to permit the Energy Transmission and Development Committee to add a study to the committee’s charge with the goal of drafting legislation that would increase the state’s role in overseeing pipleline safety.

“I have been pleased to see Public Service Commissioners suggesting that it may be time for the PSC to consider accepting responsibility for pipeline safety or at least sharing such responsibility with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration,” said Triplett. “However, those recommendations do not go far enough. PSC Chairman Brian Kalk has been quoted as saying that he does not believe any additional laws are needed, just better enforcement of laws already in place. The federal laws only require enhanced monitoring of pipelines in locations considered ‘high consequence areas’ where a release could affect large populations, drinking water supplies, or environmentally sensitive areas. In North Dakota, we consider the entire state a ‘high consequence area.’”

Interim committees, such as the Energy Transmission and Development Committee, have the power to approve legislation for consideration by the full legislature during the 2015 session. Bills approved as part of this process are introduced under the name of the particular interim committee, not by any individual legislator.

“We have an opportunity during the interim to come up with a sensible, bipartisan bill that provides meaningful disclosure and protections while avoiding overreach,” noted Triplett. “This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a North Dakota stewardship issue.”

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From: Dem-NPL News

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