Update on HB 1004 – and send them a thank you!

Week three has started with a bang and a great House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee meeting. On the agenda this morning was HB 1004, a bill that would allow treble damages to be awarded in certain court cases between landowners and oil/gas companies.

When the bill was introduced to the summer study, it was introduced as a way to level the playing field for landowners and to provide an incentive for oil/gas companies to act in such a way that they would not end up in court – since (with this bill) if they do, they could be assessed treble damages (triple the amount originally asked for by a landowner) if the judge sees fit.

At the last meeting of the summer study, Steve Willard, lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, suggested an amendment to this bill that made it go both ways, so oil/gas companies could get treble damages from landowners. The summer study accepted his amendment, and in doing so, changed the entire intent of the bill.

Over the past week I worked with the lobbyists for the SD Stockgrowers and SD Farmers Union to get an amendment in front of the House committee to reverse Mr. Willard’s amendment and return HB 1004 to its original intent – to provide an extra layer of protection and potential damages awards to landowners who deal with oil/gas companies on a daily basis. This morning, after testimony by our three organizations and testimony by Mr. Willard against our amendment, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee amended the bill back to its original language and passed it out – unanimously.

I have to give great thanks to Chairman Rep. Hoffman, who has consistently spoken up for landowners, and who spoke well for the amendment and bill this morning. Thanks also go to Rep. Olson, who proposed our amendment to the committee; and Rep. Cammack, who spoke in favor of the bill and called it “good legislation.” These legislators deserve credit for passing a bill that holds up to their commitment of supporting the best interests of their constituents. If you click on their names, it will take you to a site where you can write a quick note of thanks to them. They deserve it.

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