The Legislature’s Executive Board decided Monday lawmakers need to learn more about the oil and gas boom under way in neighboring North Dakota and apply those lessons so South Dakota is better prepared and more attractive for development of well fields.
Executive Board members decided oil and gas development should be the focus of an interim study this summer and fall. The topic was ranked highest in a survey of legislators, and there was no dissent among the board members in officially making it the first choice.
But the board wrangled over the focus for the other interim study, passing over K-12 funding and livestock development, and instead selecting higher education on an 8-6 vote. That study will look at the purpose and funding of the public universities and technical institutes.
Fifteen legislators will be chosen to serve on each panel. Those selections will be made before July 1.
Legislative Research Council staff member Reuben Bezpaletz suggested that the oil and gas committee consider taking a trip to Williston, the hub of North Dakota’s well fields, or to Bismarck, the state capital, to hear directly from people involved in, and affected by, the development.
“In my opinion we don’t have that expertise in South Dakota,” Bezpaletz said.
Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, likewise urged the committee to visit northwestern South Dakota, where some well fields are already in place.
Bezpaletz said the state government of South Dakota owns the minerals rights on many thousands of acres of land that originally were granted as part of statehood or were severed from property as part of Rural Credit foreclosures that peaked during the 1920s.
He said severed mineral rights among individual landowners have been a difficult topic for the Legislature since he began at the LRC in the 1970s.
He suggested the state government might be able to develop methods to encourage more drilling exploration on land where the mineral rights belong to the state.