BISMARCK—Some landowners in the Oil Patch say the State of North Dakota must stop ignoring major problems with current pipeline development while it promotes more oil pipelines as called for by the recent Governor’s pipeline summit.
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North Dakota has the strongest law in the United States on restoration of mined farmland, but the state Supreme Court’s recent Coal Lake ruling threatens to make it a dead letter.
The court upheld the Public Service Commission’s decision that recreation was a “higher and better” use for 86 acres of mined land than raising crops.
The coal companies think up these alternatives and so far the PSC has given its blessing to all of them – golf courses, dirt bike tracks, shooting ranges, waste disposal pits. Adding these to what’s considered a “higher and better” use exempts the coal company from meeting farm productivity standards. Continue reading
What the law says
State Regulatory Authority employees, which include PSC commissioners, “shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or any other thing of monetary value, from a coal company which: (1) Conducts or is seeking to conduct, operations or activities that are regulated by the State Regulatory Authority.”
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
30 C.F.R. § 705