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'Residue' from North Dakota Spill Lingers in State Government

Although it happened about a month ago and the situation has been under control, a leak of 20,600 bbl of crude oil in a remote wheat field is still being felt in North Dakota state offices, particularly in the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). It has prompted cries for the public's need to know.

The leak involving a Tesoro Logistics LP pipeline in a wheat field northeast of Tioga, ND (see Shale Daily,Oct. 11), has brought out critics calling for more transparency regarding spill incidents, both large and small. State officials have defended their position of not reporting the many small spills that happen in the state's burgeoning oil and natural gas production from the Bakken/Three Forks Shale plays.

There are no legal requirements that the state disclose spill information publicly, but the DMR and other state officials are facing increased criticism about the Tesoro leak, which was discovered Sept. 29 but only became public 11 days later through an Associated Press (AP) news report. Since the report, AP has uncovered  292 other incidents, collectively leaking 1,130 bbl during the past two years.

DMR Director Lynn Helms told local news media that state officials are struggling to find the right balance between keeping the public aware of what is happening in the oil/gas sector but not "overwhelming" people with little incidents that occur.

Helms' state office charged with overseeing oil/gas drilling operations was not issuing any other reactions to the recent criticism, but it is currently "taking a look at how it can work more effectively with the federal agencies in regard to spill reporting," a DMR spokesperson told NGI's Shale Dailyon Monday.

The spokesperson also confirmed the accuracy of the AP estimate of nearly 300 spills going unreported during the past two years.

At the time, a unit of refiner Tesoro Corp. said the seepage first detected two weeks earlier came from a pinhole leak that may have been caused by corrosion. Tesoro said the affected pipeline segment was temporarily shut down, the release stopped and repairs began shortly after it was initially identified.

There was no surface water or groundwater impacted, a spokesperson for the North Dakota Department of Public Health (NDDPH) told NGI's Shale Dailyearlier this month. "The company has stepped up to the plate and done everything that is desired at this site. They have contained, delineated it, and they are developing a remediation plan, so they are doing everything that needs to be done to correct the situation."

Nevertheless, in the wake of the AP report, Don Morrison, executive director at the Dakota Resource Council, an environmental-oriented landowner group, told local news media that the public needs to know about any spills, and the landowner on whose land the Tesoro spill occurred has echoed similar sentiments in the news media.

Wheat farmer Louis Kuster said that the spill information is vital to farmers ensuring the safety of their crops.

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