The state of North Dakota has submitted official comment raising “serious concerns” about proposed changes to how the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers public land in North Dakota.
BLM released its proposed changes to the North Dakota Resource Management Plan on Jan. 20, along with a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Together, the documents address management of approximately 58,500 acres of BLM-administered surface and 4.1 million acres of federal mineral estate in North Dakota for the next 20 to 30 years.
The original 90-day public comment period was extended for North Dakota until May 22. On Monday, in collaboration with Gov. Doug Burgum, the Governor’s Office and several executive branch agencies, North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley submitted official comments to BLM on behalf of the state.
Among the chief concerns is that BLM’s two preferred plan alternatives would withdraw large portions of public lands in North Dakota from mineral development. In the process, BLM also would effectively strand many acres of state-owned and privately owned land because of the checkerboard pattern of mineral ownership in North Dakota. The state notes that BLM lacks authority from Congress to impose these blanket surface restrictions on state and private lands or those managed by other federal agencies, and that restricting mineral development on these lands won’t reduce demand for minerals but will hurt the environment by forcing state and private minerals to be developed less efficiently.
“As Americans struggle with high energy prices and inflation, the Biden administration continues to wage its misguided war on the energy industry in North Dakota – including this Resource Management Plan that attempts to further restrict development of our abundant oil, natural gas and coal resources,” Burgum said. “As a nation, we should be responsibly developing our natural resources and selling energy to our friends and allies instead of buying energy from our enemies. With the comments submitted by Attorney General Wrigley this week, our North Dakota executive branch agencies – including the Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Water Resources, Department of Trust Lands and Public Service Commission – continue to push back against federal overreach and support responsible mineral development to ensure North Dakotans have access to clean, reliable, affordable energy.”
In the comments, Wrigley calls on BLM to adopt an alternative that doesn’t carry the significant legal and technical issues as BLM’s preferred alternatives, and to modify the plan to comply with a recent federal court decision that ordered BLM to resume quarterly sales of oil and gas leases on public lands in North Dakota.
Burgum chairs both the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the Department of Mineral Resources, and the Board of University and School Lands (Land Board), which oversees the Department of Trust Lands. The Department of Water Resources is a cabinet agency whose director reports to the governor. The Public Service Commission is an independently elected body that regulates the state’s utilities and siting of energy infrastructure, among other duties.