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Alternate Member, State of North Dakota, Royalty Policy Committee

Lynn Helms is an alternate member of the Department of Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee, and as a member of this committee advises Secretary Zinke “on policy and strategies to improve management of the multi-billion dollar, federal and American Indian mineral revenue program.”

Lynn Helms is currently Director of the North Dakota Department of Minerals Resources. He graduated with a “bachelor of science degree in engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1978.” After graduating, Helms worked as “a production engineer for Texaco in all of the producing areas of Montana.” In 1980, Helms joined global energy company Amerada Hess, now the Hess Corporation, where he worked as a production engineer and reservoir engineer in Williston, North Dakota and as an “asset team leader on projects in Abu Dhabi, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.” Since July 1998, Helms has “served as the Director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil & Gas Division.” In 2005, he became Director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, a department that has a “dual mission as both an oil industry promoter and its chief regulator” in North Dakota.

Sources: [Department of Interior, Press Release, 09/01/17, “Executive Biography: Second Vice Chairman,” Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission,” accessed 09/29/17, Hess Corporation, Press Release, 05/09/06, and Deborah Sontag, “Where Oil and Politics Mix,” New York Times, 11/23/14]

Special Interests

Texaco (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Helms worked as a production engineer for Texaco in the 1970s.

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also connected to:

Hess Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Helms worked for multinational energy company Hess Corporation, when it was called Amerada Hess, as a production engineer, reservoir engineer and as an asset team leader.

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also connected to:

Other Information

Lynn Helms, as Director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, “has a dual mission as both an oil industry promoter and its chief regulator.” Helms, to his critics, “personifies a cozy relationship between the commission and oil companies,” but he argues that his background in the oil industry “gives him access and authority.” Helms claimed, “‘If [oil companies] didn’t trust me, and if they expected every time they made a mistake they were going to get slapped with a great big fine or be singled out or profiled, I wouldn’t get straight answers.'”

Lynn Helms, as Director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, “has a dual mission as both an oil industry promoter and its chief regulator,” “as he is compelled by statute both to promote ‘the greatest possible economic recovery of oil and gas’ and to enforce regulations.” “To his critics, Mr. Helms personifies a cozy relationship between the commission and oil companies,” but Helms “said that his background gives him access and authority, and that his job is to promote responsible development, not the industry. ‘In order to effectively do that I have to be on a first-name basis with C.E.O.s and managers,’ he said. ‘If they didn’t trust me, and if they expected every time they made a mistake they were going to get slapped with a great big fine or be singled out or profiled, I wouldn’t get straight answers.'” At monthly meetings of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which is made up of the North Dakota ” governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, all Republicans,” Helms “guides them calmly from vote to vote and rarely encounters dissent. A review by The New York Times of meeting minutes since 2011 found no failed motions concerning oil and gas. ‘You feel as if the meetings are a performance, that everything’s sort of done under the table, with a lot of back-room deals,’ said Wayde Schafer, the Sierra Club’s sole employee in North Dakota.” [Deborah Sontag, “Where Oil and Politics Mix,” The New York Times, 11/23/14 and Deborah Sontag and Robert Gebeloff, “The Downside of the Boom,” The New York Times, 11/23/14]

Lynn Helms has opposed legislative efforts to separate the part of his job that promotes the oil and gas industry from the regulatory part of his job.

In 2015, North Dakota state senators introduced a bill to “strip the promotional side of the Department of Mineral Resources director’s role from the regulatory side” and move the “promotional side would be moved to the Department of Commerce” because the two roles were “incompatible.” Lynn Helms argued that the “bill would impair efforts at moving the industry forward and properly overseeing its activity.” The oil and gas industry also opposed the bill. [Nick Smith, “State oil regulator’s promotional role questioned,” Bismarck Tribune, 02/05/15]

Lynn Helms supported the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which opponents argued “would lead to dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate climate change.”

Lynn Helms testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology in support of the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which opponents argued “would lead to dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate climate change.” Helms, director of mineral resources at the North Dakota Industrial Commission, argued in his testimony “that approval would help cut harmful emissions and make the transport of American oil much more efficient.” [Ben Wolfgang, “Keystone XL would reduce long-haul truck traffic, thus less emissions,” The Washington Times, 05/07/13]

Lynn Helms directed his employees to delete “reports and photos of oil spills from emergency managers and landowners and reports of discrepancies in gas flaring data.”

Lynn Helms, in May 2016, directed employees of the State Oil and Gas Division to “‘remove unnecessary emails.'” A year later, the emails were recovered after an open records request, and a review of the deleted emails found that “the department was permanently destroying records that included inter-agency communications, reports and photos of oil spills from emergency managers and landowners and reports of discrepancies in gas flaring data.” An undisclosed tip alleged that the “deletions were related to improper reporting and transportation of oil and valuable natural gas liquids.” [Lauren Donovan, “Deleted Oil and Gas Division emails resurrected as troublesome issue,” Bismarck Tribune, 05/19/17, and Tyler Axness, “Continued Calls for a Full Performance Audit of Oil and Gas Division is Warranted,” North Dakota Politics, 05/22/17]

Under Lynn Helms’ leadership, in 2013, the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division came under fire from environmental groups when it took the department 11 days to “inform the public of one of the largest oil spills in North Dakota history.”

Helms said that the Tesoro Pipeline’s “size, pipeline pressure and location put it beneath the minimum threshold for monitoring and testing requirements.” [Nick Smith, “Tioga oil leak prompts policy review by state,” Bismarck Tribune, 10/15/13]