Limits Drilling Near Places of Extraordinary Significance

On March 3, 2014, the North Dakota Industrial Commission passed the much anticipated and highly contested proposed Places of Extraordinary Significance/Drilling Permit Review Policy. The Policy will go into effect on May 1, 2014, but will only apply to public lands. The public lands limitation is a welcome change from the original proposal that would have had a much broader application.

The policy affects the permitting process for any oil and gas well drilled in a “buffer zone" established around 18 designated areas of interest in the state, but private lands are not included in the approved policy. Among the 18 areas designated in the policy as Places of Extraordinary Significance are:

  • All of Lake Sakakawea (1/2 mile buffer zone)
  • Little Missouri River (1 mile from centerline of riverbed) 
  • Little Missouri River National Grasslands 
  • Little Missouri State Park (1 mile buffer zone) 
  • Theodore Roosevelt National Park (2 mile buffer zone) 
  • Wildlife management areas (1 mile buffer zone)

The NDIC Policy as approved provides that, after May 1, 2014, any application for a permit to drill on public lands within the established "buffer zone" must comply with the following:

  1. The non-confidential portions of the application will be posted on the daily activity reports section of the Department of Mineral Resources website. For a period of 10 days thereafter, the NDIC may receive comments from the public regarding issues such as access road and well location, reclamation plans and timing, noise, traffic and visual impact mitigation.
  2. The non-confidential portions of the application will also be sent by the director to various state and federal agencies that are responsible for the public lands. Those agencies may, within 10 days, provide comments on the application. All of the comments received by the NDIC will be reviewed and summarized for consideration by the director. The director "may" consider the comment summaries for purposes of attaching conditions to any drilling permit for the purpose of mitigating potential impacts to the sites.

The NDIC is scheduled meet again in April to discuss technical aspects of the policy.