A new rule proposed by the National Forest Service would expedite oil and gas development on public lands, including the oil-rich Little Missouri National Grasslands. North Dakota officials say they can streamline energy projects while being responsible to the environment, but conservation groups disagree.
Oil and gas companies in North Dakota could leapfrog environmental regulations on development projects in the state's Little Missouri National Grasslands if a new Trump administration rule is enacted.
The proposed new rule, announced by the National Forest Service on Tuesday, Sept. 1, would eliminate procedural hurdles on new oil and gas projects on public lands managed by the department around the country.
"We took those complications out," said U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Jim Hubbard, who oversees the National Forest Service, at a roundtable of North Dakota lawmakers and oil representatives in Bismarck on Wednesday. "A lot of it was redundancies that didn't serve any purpose. So we stripped those out."
The ramifications of the new rule could be profound in Western North Dakota's Little Missouri National Grasslands, which has become a frequent battleground for companies looking to capitalize on the oil and mineral-rich territory and for conservationists who see their development as destructive to one of the state's ecological treasures.
Gov. Doug Burgum, Sen. John Hoven and Sen. Kevin Cramer attended the Bismarck roundtable and echoed Hubbard's enthusiasm for the proposed rule, arguing that North Dakota can streamline oil and gas projects without running afoul of environmental protections.