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A state pipeline reclamation program with less funding approved this session is expected to be adequate for the next two years in addressing landowner concerns.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said this week the program has moved out of pilot program status and its need will be reassessed in future budget cycles. Funding was cut in half for the 2017-19 biennium from the $400,000 approved for 2015-17, which he said should cover expenses based on the number of cases brought forward.

“I’d like to say we’ve been very successful. Overall, people have been happy,” said Goehring, who is authorized to contract with ombudsmen to provide technical assistance and for following up on pipeline issues for landowners. Typical complaints include mixing topsoil and subsoil, weeds and failure to adequately re-establish vegetation along pipeline easement routes.

Cases are assigned after checking with the Department of Mineral Resources and the Public Service Commission regarding jurisdiction and when the pipeline went into service. The program only applies to pipelines installed after Jan. 1, 2006, and those not under PSC jurisdiction.

To date, 62 cases have been assigned during the life of the program out of 65 complaints received. Two of the three were under PSC jurisdiction and the other was pre-2006.

One change that could impact the number of complaints received was legislation passed this session keeping information on those who file complaints confidential. Goehring said, if there’s a flood of new cases because of this and funding isn’t sufficient, the department can file a funding request through the North Dakota Emergency Commission.

More information on the program can be found at www.nd.gov/ndda.

Rail program providing benefits

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State regulators are seeing significant benefits from a pilot rail safety program due to there being more eyes out in the field and plan to use that record to continue the program in two years when the pilot period has ended.

The program was created with the intent of being a four-year pilot program through the end of the 2017-19 biennium.

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Funding of nearly $565,000 was placed in the PSC budget, House Bill 1008.

“It’s a pretty modest investment,” Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said. “We’re going to have a lot of results to share with the Legislature.”

The PSC entered an agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration in July 2015 for the pilot program, which supplements the work of several FRA inspectors assigned to North Dakota. The FRA’s inspectors also work in several other states in the region.

The track inspector was certified in March 2016 and the mechanical inspector in August.

In February the mechanical inspector found 11 violations at a rail terminal in Tioga. The violations involved broken side bearings, which keep a train car from moving side to side on the tracks.

“You could easily have a derailment,” Fedorchak said of having more than a couple of cars with that type of violation being used on a set of tracks. “All in all, he does a very good, thorough job."

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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