The three-member North Dakota Industrial Commission, including Gov. Jack Dalrymple, which oversees oil and natural gas operations in the state, on Wednesday directed commission staff to come up with mitigation plans to protect vulnerable areas from exploration and production (E&P) impacts.

Commission member Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in December submitted a list of 18 proposed places needing special protection. The panel, which also includes Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, now is set to review the sites and the staff’s proposed guidelines when the commission meets Wednesday (Jan. 29).

In December, the commission established more stringent pipeline rules and reporting requirements for operators, which state lawmakers have endorsed.

However, some Republican state legislators apparently are concerned about the additional proposal from Stenehjem for special areas of the state. The lawmakers, industry and farm groups, contend that the statewide commission already has restrictions in place to minimize impacts from drilling.

After formal review by Stenehjem’s office of the new proposed rules, they are on track to be effective April 1.

On Wednesday, the commission took a vote on the “special places” submittal from Stenehjem and unanimously agreed that “staff members should meet to create a proposed policy for mitigation practices as well as a public comment procedure,” a spokesperson said.

The commission also wants the staff recommendation for a “point of contact to receive and review comments about the places of extraordinary significance and report on it at the commission meeting” next week, the spokesperson told NGI‘s Shale Daily.

“It sounds like there will no longer be a formal rule [pursued] due to the time it would take to implement — six to nine months.”

Wednesday’s agenda is expected to be on “proposed rules relating to general drilling permit consideration; designation of ‘places of extraordinary significance’, and additional requirements for permitting in places of extraordinary significance.”