BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Thousands of miles of underground gathering pipelines in North Dakota are being mapped under new rules that require companies to report the locations to the state, a change that is being hailed by regulators, industry and the state's biggest landowner group.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration monitors pipelines that move crude oil to market, while large natural gas pipelines are overseen the state's Public Service Commission. But until this year, the network of pipelines that crisscross the state gathering oil, natural gas, drilling byproducts and other liquids went unmonitored by state and federal regulators.
The North Dakota Legislature this year passed a broad measure that requires pipeline owners to submit the whereabouts of gathering pipelines and notify regulators when the lines are abandoned. A $75 million fund from oil tax revenue also is being established to pay for pipeline reclamation, if the pipeline's owner is not located.
But for proprietary reasons, the rules allow only regulators, the pipeline owner, the landowner where the line is located and maintenance crews to have access to the location database.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission, headed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple, approved the rule changes last week.
"Obviously, the idea is to gain oversight on gathering pipelines. It's terribly needed," said Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Mineral Resources.
"It's a step, a big step and a turning point for the state," added Don Morrison, executive director of the Dakota Resource Council, an environmentally minded landowner group with more than 700 members in North Dakota. "I hear stories all the time about farmers and ranchers discovering pipelines on their land that they did not know where there."