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EPA now has ND office space for environmental crime detectives

Federal environmental crimes detectives now have office space when they're in North Dakota investigating Bakken-related incidents.

The workspace is temporary at this point, but there's no end date to the memorandum of understanding, which the Environmental Protection Agency signed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service to share office space in Bismarck, EPA spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said.

"It's important to understand these guys are not regulators, they're not inspectors -- they're detectives," North Dakota U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said. "... They come in and they investigate the worst of the worst of the worst of the environmental violations."

Two agents are based in Helena, Mont., a day's drive from the Oil Patch.

Purdon said he's been pushing for more of a presence in North Dakota for two years, and hopes this is just a first step toward a permanent presence.

Incidents these agents investigate include illegal handling or waste of hazardous materials, oil spills that reach U.S. waters, false statements to regulators and other crimes, McClain-Vanderpool said.

Dakota Resource Council Executive Director Don Morrison said he sees the state as lacking when it comes to regulating oil development, and hopes this will help fill that void.

"I certainly hope that our ... current state government officials will not resort to their usual bashing of the EPA but they'll work with them hand-in-hand," he said.