North Dakota officials estimate that 25% of the Bakken Shale’s output could be negatively impacted by a change in energy policy under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., threatening the 7,000 state-drawn, two-square-mile spacing units that contain all of the state’s future drilling sites.

Bakken production

Nearly half (48%) of those units include federal-owned land and/or mineral rights, said Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. Helms’ department, through its oil and gas division, decides how many drilling sites are allowed within each unit and establishes setbacks so one driller doesn’t “drain a neighbor’s oil.”

“Spacing units are set up to keep wells away from boundaries and away from neighboring oil, so everyone’s rights are protected,” said...