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ND House wants a say on Industrial Commission orders

BISMARCK - House lawmakers pushed back Friday against recent actions by the North Dakota Industrial Commission by passing a bill that would require broad orders to be reviewed by legislators.

BISMARCK – House lawmakers pushed back Friday against recent actions by the North Dakota Industrial Commission by passing a bill that would require broad orders to be reviewed by legislators.

House members voted 61-27 in favor of House Bill 1187 that would void any “rules of general applicability” approved by the Industrial Commission that do not go through a legislative rulemaking process.

As introduced, the bill would have retroactively voided recent orders adopted by the commission related to natural gas flaring and conditioning crude oil for transport, but it was amended to apply only to orders approved after July 31, 2015.

Lead bill sponsor Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Bowman, said the bill was a reaction to the natural gas flaring goals and oil conditioning standards approved by the Industrial Commission last year that did not go through the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee.

“It’s a fairly deep policy shift that they have done here the last year,” Kempenich said in an interview after Friday’s floor session. “I think it does send a message that there is another branch of government that should be involved.”

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The Industrial Commission consists of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

The House Industry, Business and Labor Committee had issued a do-not-pass recommendation in a 7-4 vote.

Rep. Vernon Laning, R-Bismarck, said the committee considered testimony from the Industrial Commission that although those two orders didn’t go through the full rulemaking process, stakeholders did have opportunities to comment.

The commission also testified that flexibility in the process is needed to rapidly respond to issues affecting public safety and the environment, Laning said.

Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck, committee chairman, said the Legislature gives state agencies the authority and responsibility to regulate their industries.

Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, said the Industrial Commission is taking a “weak image” of what’s required by law by taking public input but not going through the full administrative process.

“The Industrial Commission is realizing that they are overstepping their bounds. That’s why they take public input,” Nelson said.

Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, said there ought to be some middle ground that allows regulatory agencies to do their jobs but provides for legislative involvement for major orders.

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“When that order gets to some level, it should have to come back to the Legislature next session for review by this body,” Skarphol said.

 

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