Top oil regulator opposes dividing oil and gas industry duties – Bismarck Tribune

[colored_box color=”green”]Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota department of mineral resources, spoke Wednesday to the North Dakota Industrial Commission about a number of pending bills. (Bismarck Tribune Photo)[/colored_box]

Top oil regulator opposes dividing oil and gas industry duties

By Nick Smith – Bismarck Tribune

Sixty-six bills related to the oil and gas industry are being tracked by Lynn Helms, the director of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Of those, 27 bills could directly impact department operations. Some of them are concerning to the state’s top regulator.

Helms told the three members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission on Wednesday that Senate Bill 2366, which would give the promotional side of Helm’s role to the Commerce Department, represents a major change that the Commerce Department lacks the expertise to deal with.

The introduction of SB2366 follows through on a promise made by Democratic-NPL Party leadership a year ago to introduce such legislation.

Helms said the bill would eliminate three archeologist positions that focus on agency publications and also impact the North Dakota Geological Survey’s William M. Laird Core and Sample Library.

“It would pretty much have to move the core library to the Department of Commerce,”said  Helms, who added staff would need to be moved to Commerce’s authority.

“They may not necessarily understand the Department of Mineral Resources’ role in all of that,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said.

Helms agreed. He said numerous other oil-and-gas producing states have similar language in state laws melding regulatory and promotional roles.

Two other bills would reduce the period for flaring of natural gas from wells. Senate Bill 2287 would decrease the period for flaring from one year to 90 days while Senate Bill 2343 would reduce the period to 14 days.

Helms said these bills would increase the department’s workload by hundreds of cases annually in which the volume of gas flared and value of gas flared would need to be determined for purposes of royalty payments.

“In my opinion, this doesn’t add anything to the gas capture plan,” Helms said.

The commission approved rules last year setting benchmarks for the reining in of natural gas.

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