An interim study committee in the South Dakota state legislature has agreed to pursue as many as eight different bills this year covering oil and natural drilling, including one aimed at hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The Oil and Gas Study Interim Committee Chair, state Rep. Roger Solum, told local news media the interim study committee will continue through this year. One of his colleagues on the study panel, Sen. Billie Sutton, said that a package of bills, some of them aimed at protecting landowners and others aimed at learning from what neighboring North Dakota has done in the midst of its shale oil and gas boom, will be presented to state lawmakers.

Separately, South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scheduled a public hearing on its draft drilling rules for Jan. 17, and it continues to take public comments on the rules until Wednesday (see Shale Daily, Dec. 24, 2012). Department officials have acknowledged that they don’t expect large-scale fracking in their state unless an unconventional reservoir like the Bakken to the north is discovered.

Nevertheless, one of DENR’s three oil/gas drilling rule additions deals with fracking, calling for operators to report fracking details to the Internet-based FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. Other changes deal with final reclamation requirements for all oil/gas well sites and interim reclamation activities between closure and plugging of wells.

The legislative study committee thus far has considered 17 different bills, and has decided to push eight of them, including the one on fracking, “to require certain posting of information if hydraulic fracturing stimulation is performed on oil and gas wells.”

DENR action is duplicating work at the legislative study committee, which has proposed bills covering plugging and performance bonds for oil/gas wells, mediation between exploration/development operators and landowners, and funding requirements for “depredation caused by oil/gas exploration.”

In some cases, state lawmakers have indicated an agency-generated rule, rather than a law, would be the best way to address the issue.

Noting that North Dakota was unprepared for handling its drilling boom, Sen. Sutton said “anything we can do to get ahead of the curve” would be helpful in South Dakota. Sutton said there are a lot of things the state can’t do at this point, so they want to focus on what’s possible in a preparatory sense.

“Anything we can do to continue planning is good for landowners and good for the state as a whole, ” said Solum.

With oil production in the state dating back to 1954, South Dakota currently has about 150 producing oil wells, all concentrated in the northwest corner of the state in Harding County, and 100 of what DENR officials said are “low-volume” gas wells. This is all in the Red River formation.