Oil and gas crossover bills – 1001, 1003, 1004

Today’s the day the oil and gas summer study bills from the House are being heard in the Senate. Dave Niemi and Ron Slaba are here from Harding County to testify, along with DRA, the Stockgrowers, and the Farmer’s Union.

HB 1001 flew through the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee with no “no” votes. This requires notice to landowners if an oil company is coming onto a rancher’s land. Its a good bill, and we are very glad it is passing through.

HB 1003 opens up the Department of Agriculture’s mediation program to disputes between landowners and oil/gas companies. The Department is in favor of it. We really like this, but we would like to see something that would require oil developers to come to the table. This year was not the year to get that in, but there will be a rule making process and we will be working with the Department of Agriculture to set the best rules possible. Fantastic testimony came from Rep. Charlie Hoffman, yours truly from good old DRA, Jeremiah Murphey with the Stockgrowers, Chris Studor with the Farmer’s Union, Dave Niemi, and Ron Slaba.

Steve Willard with the Petroleum Industry, representing Ken Luff, spoke against. His points were that first, something about severing minerals, which has nothing to do with this bill, and which does not apply to most landowners as the decision to sever the minerals was made well over a generation ago. His second point is that this bill is designed for the one percent but the rest of the operators are being punished. The problem with his argument here is that this bill can’t even touch good operators. So if you act in good faith, this bill cannot touch you as an oil company. He also said a court can award treble damages today. This is actually untrue. A count needs the authorization of this kind of statute to be able to make that award. Rep. Hoffman did a great job rebutting the opponent testimony.

Senator Omdahl said he will oppose the bill, reasoning that the Legislature should not be negotiating these disputes. Senator Rhoden moved a do-pass, and Sen. Frerichs seconded. In his comments, Sen. Rhoden said that the proponents made the case that there is value in this bill. Though he empathizes with Mr. Willard, he understands the intent of this bill is not against the good actors. The committee voted 7-1 to pass this bill out – success! Please email your senators TODAY and urge their support for HB 10004, the treble damages bill, when it comes up on the Senate floor.

With that, we would call the summer study, for the most part, a success. Protections for landowners are well on their way to becoming law in South Dakota. Wonderful.

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