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North Dakota's attorney general will be looking at the possibility of challenging new rules concerning fracking that were issued last week by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.

“We need to take action,” said Gov. Jack Dalrymple, adding that the fracking rules are an overreach that could interfere with the work of the state’s water commission and health department.

The three-member North Dakota Industrial Commission, of which Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is a member, voted unanimously to move forward in its consideration of legal action.

“I think we … need to explore options. The real problems with the rules are the overreach," said Lynn Helms, director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. “We’re talking over 40 percent of our 1.2 million barrels per day is at risk."

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management rules, which go into effect June 1, come after review of more than 1.5 million submitted comments and are meant to address energy development on public and tribal lands.

The rules include requirements for publicly disclosing the chemicals used by operators in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, within 30 days of the completion of a well. Additional requirements include inspections of wells to ensure integrity of the cement barriers lining wells, reporting of the geology of the well site and regulations of storing fracking chemicals at well sites.

Helms said the new rules could impact an estimated one-third of spacing units in the Bakken and Three Forks formations in North Dakota. He said the largest negative impact could be on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, where nearly one-third of oil production in the state occurs.

Industry has opposed such regulations on grounds of impacting drilling costs and causing drilling to be curtailed. The Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit immediately following the release of the rules Friday.

Helms suggested the state should join the existing lawsuit, file a lawsuit of its own or join with other energy-producing states to file.

Stenehjem said lawmakers approved $1 million during the last legislative session set in Helms’ budget for litigation on issues such as fracking regulation.

The NDIC consists of Stenehjem, Dalrymple and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

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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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