Pipeline policy stripped down further

By Sarah Pridgeon

The county’s proposed policy for the installation and maintenance of commercial pipelines on or across county roads was stripped down further at December’s regular meeting. This followed a decision from the County Commissioners to reduce the scope of the policy, which had grown to incorporate issues that were not necessarily relevant to the county’s roads.

The goal is to create a “one stop shop” for a pipeline company looking to construct across Crook County, said County Attorney Joe Baron.  During the hearing, procedural aspects were improved and terminology was corrected, while additional comments from pipeline companies and the public were incorporated.

According to the policy, after an initial meeting with county staff, a pipeline company will be required to gather the necessary information and address any concerns in time for a public hearing with the County Commissioners, when the license will be granted. The process is intended to be streamlined and clear and, noted Baron, took less than a month for the Butte Pipeline, who followed it recently on a trial basis.

The policy was further trimmed to remove unnecessary steps, including multiple public hearings and a separate application. Language was changed to clarify the process and the commissioners’ sole authority to grant the license.

When Oneok directed the Bakken Pipeline through the county, no rules had been established to govern how the process would unfold. The commissioners implemented the policy in the wake of this which, said Baron, led to a policy that included every potential issue related to a pipeline, rather than simply guidelines that address the county roads.

“The problem we had was that there were absolutely no rules to follow, so everything in the world came in instead of what was trying to limit the scope to relate to the roads,” he said.

“From where we started to where we are now, I think we’ve cut back on most of that and I think it’s going to be cut back a little bit more in public hearings once we revise this a little bit more.”

The policy will be reviewed again at the next regular meeting of the County Commissioners in January.