INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published March 22, 2013, 09:12 AM

XTO Energy pulls app for land near historic ranch

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An oil company that staked out an area near the site of Theodore Roosevelt's historic Badlands ranch in western North Dakota has withdrawn an application to the state to develop the land for up to four oil wells.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An oil company that staked out an area near the site of Theodore Roosevelt's historic Badlands ranch in western North Dakota has withdrawn an application to the state to develop the land for up to four oil wells.

State Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter says XTO Energy late Thursday notified officials of the decision to pull the application, which had drawn criticism from officials at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Superintendent Valerie Naylor called the possible wells the worst threat to the park in its history.

Roosevelt raised cattle at the Elkhorn ranch site in the mid-1880s before becoming the nation's president. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year.

Mineral Resources officials had been scheduled to discuss the XTO Energy plan at a hearing next week.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple owns stock in the parent of an oil company that has staked out an area near the site of Theodore Roosevelt's historic Badlands ranch in western North Dakota.

Dalrymple heads a state commission that ultimately will have a say in whether oil drilling is allowed there.

Documents filed with the secretary of state's office show that Dalrymple owns shares in ExxonMobil, the parent of XTO Energy, The Bismarck Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/ZR3jrD). Dalrymple, through spokesman Jeff Zent, said he is not going to disclose the details of those shares, including how many or their value.

"He is not going to discuss the details of his personal finances," Zent said.

XTO Energy has staked out an area for up to four oil wells near the Elkhorn Ranch site, where Roosevelt raised cattle in the mid-1880s before becoming the nation's president. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places last year. Theodore Roosevelt National Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor calls the possible wells the worst threat to the park in its history.

XTO Energy said this week that it has made no decisions about actually drilling in the area and is consulting with federal officials about an alternative location. Any oil drilling would require not only state permits but federal approval because the area is on the Little Missouri National Grasslands.

State Mineral Resources officials have scheduled a March 28 hearing on the number of wells that could be drilled in the area. They eventually will make a recommendation to the state Industrial Commission. Dalrymple is chairman of the commission.

The state attorney general says it is appropriate for the governor to abstain from voting only if he has "direct and substantial personal interest in a decision," Zent said.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agricultural Commissioner Doug Goehring are the other members of the commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry in the state. Neither list interest in ExxonMobil on their financial disclosure forms.

Tags: