Feb. 24, 2014
North Dakota Industrial Commission
Attn. Industrial Commission Executive Director
State Capitol, 14th Floor
600 E. Boulevard Ave., Dept. 405
Bismarck, ND 58505
Dear Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment again on the Industrial Commission’s proposed Drilling Permit Review Policy.
Certainly, the rapid pace and expansion of energy development has had an impact, both positive and negative, on our state. Few folks experience the negative pressure more directly than the surface owners who contend with the day-to-day challenges of co-existence with energy development on property where they live and raise their families, their crops and their livestock. As such, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association has policy supporting revisions to the permitting process to allow for more tempered, paced development that gives surface owners and city and county officials more input in the process to help sustain communities and ranching businesses. We appreciate the Industrial Commission’s recognition of these challenges and its desire to work toward their resolution.
However, our organization, which represents nearly 3,000 North Dakota beef producers, believes that there are much better alternatives than the Industrial Commission’s proposed policy that would increase regulations for 18 “Places of Extraordinary Significance,” comprising 1.236 million acres, including nearly 678,000 acres of private land, and that has the potential to strip away landowners’ private property rights.
We are very concerned that the proposal would allow anyone – including out-of-state activists who do not have North Dakota’s or its people’s best interests at heart – to play a role in determining well placement and development conditions and make other key decisions. This sets a dangerous precedent, giving non-stakeholders more say than the very people who own and pay taxes on the property.
We recognize the significance and beauty of the selected landmarks, but are concerned about the large number of acres of private, state and federal lands that would be impacted. While we don’t have policy specific to this proposal, the Stockmen’s Association does have policy opposing other designations, such as “wild and scenic rivers” and “wilderness,” for the same reasons. Even if benign on the surface, such designations can serve as springboards to more federal scrutiny and regulations.   
We recognize that the intentions behind this proposal were good, but even its positive points are negated by the lack of enforcement and its non-binding terms.
We respectfully request that you abandon this proposal and, instead, work with interested stakeholders, including surface owners, to develop a more palatable plan that would more appropriately address concerns without diminishing property rights.
Jason Zahn