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Hoeven calls for streamlined drilling permit process

North Dakota's senior U.S. senator on Wednesday lauded the efforts of a group charged with helping to find ways to quicken the permitting of federal lands for oil and gas drilling in the Bakken.

Republican John Hoeven said a recent meeting of the Bakken Federal Executives Group is a step in the right direction toward the government issuing permits in a more timely fashion, but added more needs to be done.

"We're doing a lot in the Bakken, but we could be doing a lot more if we streamlined the regulatory burden out there," Hoeven said. "We have been working to streamline the permitting process on federal lands and to reduce flaring in the Bakken."

A BFEG meeting took place Wednesday in Billings, Mont., with western North Dakota field representative Jon Cameron of Hoeven's office in attendance.

Hoeven said Obama Administration Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal approached his office earlier this spring about working together on energy policy in the Bakken.

"The administration offered to help get federal agencies involved in trying to streamline these rules," Hoeven said. "You have a lot of different agencies involved when it comes to these federal lands. One of the problems we have across the country as far as getting our economy going is too much regulatory burden. We're trying to cut through that."

The Bureau of Land Management Streamlining Act, which was authored by Hoeven and cosponsored by Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., in the Senate, is being reconciled after a similar version of the bill was debated in Congress.

The act would expand the service area of the Miles City, Mont., BLM office to include North Dakota, a move that Hoeven said would speed up the process to grant federal drilling permits, which the senator said can take up to nine months to be completed.

"It's out of the ordinary for (the Obama Administration) to do this and we're happy to see it," Hoeven said. "But we need to see much more of this. There is simply too much regulatory burden out there. Our economy in North Dakota is going great while our national economy is not.

"This is a start for the administration, but they have to do a lot more. It doesn't take any money to loosen these regulations and it will actually generate revenues by getting the economy going and reducing the national debt," the senator said.

Hoeven said to permit an oil well through the state of North Dakota takes 10 days to two weeks while getting a permit for drilling on federal property will take at least 180 days.

The BLM field office in Miles City is part of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project, established in 2005, and designed to improve the coordination of oil and gas permitting on federal lands.

This legislation would enable North Dakota to be part of the pilot project under the newly named Montana/Dakotas State Office. Pilot offices are charged with finding innovative ways to coordinate permitting to ensure efficient development with good environmental stewardship.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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