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Senate fails to hold oil executives responsible for damage

BISMARCK (AP) — The North Dakota Senate has rejected a bill that would have allowed the state to hold liable any corporate officer responsible for oil- and gas-related violations.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council and the Greater North Dakota Chamber had lobbied against the bill, saying it unfairly targeted the oil industry.

The measure rejected Wednesday was requested by State Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms after recent environmental problems in the oil patch. Helms said the state was left with the $1 million bill for cleaning up two properties after companies refused to get involved or abandoned the sites, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Rep. Jim Roers, of Fargo, was among Republicans who killed the bill.

“We have corporations and partnerships that provide protections for certain individuals, and we felt by passing this bill we would violate those protections, and CEOs, boards of directors could now be held liable for things they would have very little knowledge of what was going on,” he said.

Democratic Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, of Fargo, defended the measure.

“This is an addition that gives the Industrial Commission another tool in their toolbox as they are charged with regulating this industry,” he said.

The bill was defeated on a vote of 7-39.