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Should the feds help with pipeline oversight?

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 11:19 am

Tesoro Logistics officials will be traveling to North Dakota to meet with Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

No date has been set for the meeting but pressure is increasing on the state government about its response.

Ryan Bernstein, chief of staff for Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), said Tesoro contacted the National Response Center, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the state Department of Health in the time required.

PHMSA and its members were available and on the ground right away, he said, but PHMSA is also responsible for reporting the spill to the public within 24 hours and likely wasn’t able to do so on its website because of the government shutdown.

Bernstein added, despite the shutdown, state agencies need to consider taking a more proactive approach.

“The state Department of Health needs to take a better look at informing the public in events like this,” he said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp echoed the call for a quicker public report from the state level.

A former attorney general, Heitkamp said the laws need to be open and information public in a timely manner.

“As we establish ourselves as a national leader in energy production, it is important that we do so safely and responsibly — which includes transparency,” she said.

Two North Dakota Democrats are also questioning the DOH about the spill and its response.

Sen. Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks) and Rep. Kenton Onstad (D-Parshall) said the public is concerned about its state government’s response and lawmakers, along with industry regulators, need to look into preventing future incidents.

“We share North Dakotans’ deep concerns about the recent oil spill near Tioga and are committed to making certain that a disaster of this magnitude does not happen again in our state,” the delegation said in a release. “North Dakotans are owed a full accounting of what happened, when it happened, who knew what and when they knew it.”

Dalrymple told NPR’s Prairie Public the state needs to consider new procedures for reporting spills and that he is considering a volume threshold where more information would be required to be released as a spill hits certain marks.

He added the amount is secondary to the DOH, which is focused on public safety and health.

While the state is facing many questions about the timeliness of its reporting, Congressman Kevin Cramer is among those praising the quick response from the DOH.

With primary reporting handled on the federal side, along with more federal pipeline regulations for lines passing through water sources and communities, the rules in the rural Tioga area were less strict and potentially delayed detection of the leak.

The state could go on and require the same sensors on pipelines in rural areas, which the federal government does not.

“The example of the response to the N.D. spill adds to the evidence that states, not the federal government, are better equipped, prepared and frankly constitutionally authorized to regulate their own environments,” Cramer said through a spokesperson.

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