The North Dakota Industrial Commission has recently been considering adopting new regulations that would impose additional permitting rules for wells drilling in 18 "extraordinary places" comprising 2,600 square miles or 1.7 million acres. The affected land includes 832,000 acres of private property. The regulations under consideration would, in essence, create a buffer zone of up to two miles around each of the 18 places, including:
- All of Lake Sakakawea (½mile buffer zone)
- Little Missouri River
- Little Missouri River National Grasslands
- Little Missouri State Park
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Wildlife management areas
Companies seeking permits to drill wells in that buffer zone would be required to submit impact plans describing how they would mitigate the effects of that drilling. In addition to creating a new layer of regulations to the existing well permitting system, the proposed regulations would allow the public to intervene and provide input on matters such as well location, surface facilities, and well design. Such regulations would needlessly obstruct, delay and add to the cost of development of private lands.
On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, the NDIC decided against adopting new regulations imposing additional requirements on well permitting in the "buffer zone," but did decide to pursue that idea as an agency policy. On Wednesday, January 29, 2014, a panel studying these issues is scheduled to announce recommended policies on how to give the public more input into the permitting process for new wells.