2015 Legislative Update

The 64th Legislative Session has officially passed its halfway point. North Dakota's biennial legislative sessions always present a number of challenges for decision makers, but perhaps not more so than this year.
By Tessa Sandstrom | February 26, 2015

The 64th Legislative Session has officially passed its halfway point. North Dakota's biennial legislative sessions always present a number of challenges for decision makers, but perhaps not more so than this year. Falling oil prices and rig counts have lent considerable uncertainty for legislators as they worked to build budgets. Among the considerations was Senate bill 2103, otherwise known as the surge funding bill.

Despite budgetary concerns, Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed this bill into law on Feb. 24. The North Dakota Petroleum Council commends legislators and the governor for their quick action in passing this bill. These dollars are critical in helping western counties jump-start many of the construction projects quickly this spring and catch up in building the infrastructure and affordable housing needed in these growing communities.

The surge funding, however, is not just an advantage for western counties. The law appropriates substantial dollars to non-oil-producing counties statewide for quality infrastructure, as well. This is no doubt the first bill of many that uses oil and gas production and extraction taxes to invest in our priorities, including roads, schools and amenities and services to create an even stronger, better North Dakota.

While the surge funding bill was a top priority for the NDPC, our work did not stop with its passage. There were many regulatory bills that would have added further uncertainty to the industry during the correction we have seen in oil prices. Many of those bills were killed or defeated, while others were amended to include more reasonable solutions to the challenges we face.

Such a bill is House bill 1358, which calls for new regulations for pipelines, that is once again the first of its kind in the nation. This bill would require that crude oil and produced water gathering lines be bonded and inspected by a qualified third party. More importantly, the bill would provide significant resources for studying and analyzing pipeline standards, researching best methods for reclaiming and remediating land in the case of a spill, and also provide funding for the clean-up of spills that occurred before 1983.  Advancements have been made in reclamation practices, and these studies will ensure North Dakota is again the leader in responsible energy development.

As the legislative session moves into the second half, the assembly will likely wait until after Moody’s issues its newest forecast before making final decisions on bills with fiscal impacts. The NDPC will continue to watch these and other bills to ensure western counties and regulatory agencies get the support they need and to also ensure onerous bills do not put at risk the positive business environment North Dakota has worked hard to create over the past decade.

Author: Tessa Sandstrom
Communications Manager,
North Dakota Petroleum Council
tsandstrom@ndoil.org
701-557-7744