[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 188 (Wednesday, September 29, 2010)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 60004-60008]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-24376]



Office of the Secretary

49 CFR Part 71

[OST Docket No. OST-2010-0046]

Relocation of Standard Time Zone Boundary in the State of North 
Dakota: Mercer County

AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: DOT is moving all of Mercer County, North Dakota to the 
central time zone. Prior to this action, all of Mercer County was 
located in the mountain time zone. This action is taken in response to 
a petition filed by the Board of County Commissioners for Mercer County 
and is based on comments made at a public hearing and filed in the 

DATES: Effective Date: This final rule will be effective November 7, 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Robert C. Ashby, Deputy Assistant 
General Counsel for Regulation and Enforcement, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, Room W94-302, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE., Washington, 
DC 20590, (202) 366-9310, [email protected].



    For more than a century, time zone boundaries in North Dakota have 
had an interesting and varied history. Beginning in 1883, mountain time 
was observed in the southwest portion of the State and a few locations 
in the northwest, with central time being used elsewhere. In 1929, the 
Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which then had jurisdiction over 
time zone boundaries, extended central time to cover all but a cluster 
of counties in the southwest corner of the State. Congress transferred 
the ICC's time zone boundary powers to the Department of Transportation 
(DOT) in 1967. DOT exercises these powers under the provisions of the 
Uniform Time Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. 260-64).
    The Department has exercised its authority under this statute in 
several proceedings affecting North Dakota. In 1968, in response to a 
petition from the Governor of North Dakota, the Department placed 14 
counties lying south and west of the Missouri River into mountain time. 
The change was made to accommodate the historical pattern of time 
observance in the State. In 1992, in response to a petition from the 
Board of Commissioners of Oliver County (which is adjacent to Mercer 
County), the Department moved that county into the central time zone. 
The Department took similar action with respect to Morton County and a 
portion of Sioux County in 2003.
    In 2000-2003, the Department considered a petition from the Mercer 
County Commission to move the county to the central time zone. The 
proposal was controversial in the county. A 2000 referendum favored 
changing to central time by a vote of 1,180 to 1,038. However, a 
majority of written comments to the Department's docket, and much of 
the sentiment of persons attending a public hearing, favored keeping 
the county in the mountain time zone. After considering the comments, 
and while acknowledging the reasons supporting a change, the Department 
decided to deny the petition (68 FR 53082; September 9, 2003). The 
Department's decision noted that the Commission was free to file a new 
petition on the subject in the future. In a petition dated October 9, 
2009, Mr. Lyle L. Latimer, Chairman of Mercer County Board of County 
Commissioners, asked the Department to move the county from the 
mountain time zone to the central time zone.
    Under the Uniform Time Act, the Secretary of Transportation has 
authority to issue regulations modifying the boundaries between time 
zones in the United States in order to move an area from one time zone 
to another. The standard in the statute for such decisions is ``regard 
for the convenience of commerce and the existing junction points and 
division points of common carriers engaged in interstate or foreign 
commerce.'' The principal standard for deciding whether to change a 
time zone is defined very broadly to include consideration of all the 
impacts upon a community of a change in its standard of time. DOT has 
developed a series of questions to assist communities and us in 
determining the impact of a time zone change on the ``convenience of 
commerce.'' The Department considers information bearing on these 
questions in making its decision on a proposed time zone change.
    1. From where do businesses in the community get their supplies, 
and to where do they ship their goods or products?
    2. From where does the community receive television and radio 
    3. Where are the newspapers published that serve the community?
    4. From where does the community get its bus and passenger rail 
services; if there is no scheduled bus or passenger rail service in the 
community, to where

[[Page 60005]]

must residents go to obtain these services?
    5. Where is the nearest airport; if it is a local service airport, 
to what major airport does it carry passengers?
    6. What percentage of residents of the community work outside the 
community; where do these residents work?
    7. What are the major elements of the community's economy; is the 
community's economy improving or declining; what Federal, State or 
local plans, if any, are there for economic development in the 
    8. If residents leave the community for schooling, recreation, 
health care, or religious worship, what standard of time is observed in 
the places where they go for these purposes?

The Petition for Rulemaking

    In October 2009, the Board of Commissioners for Mercer County, 
North Dakota, petitioned the Secretary of Transportation to move Mercer 
County from the mountain time zone to the central time zone. The Mercer 
County petition stated several reasons for the request, outlining the 
Commission's view of why the change would meet the ``convenience of 
commerce'' standard. The following is a summary of the reasons asserted 
in support of the request, which address several of the Department's 
     Almost all supplies for businesses in Mercer County, 
including the coal and agriculture industries, are shipped from the 
Bismarck/Mandan area and from other points in the central time zone.
     Communications media (newspapers, radio and television 
stations) serving Mercer County are based in the Bismarck/Mandan area.
     There is no regular passenger transportation serving 
Mercer County. Residents go to the Bismarck/Mandan area to catch 
planes, trains, and buses.
     The main offices for several Mercer County energy industry 
facilities are located in Bismarck.
     Many residents regularly travel to the Bismarck/Mandan 
area for recreation, health care, and other purposes.
     Geographically, Mercer County is adjacent to the central 
time zone on the east, north, and south sides of the county, and is 
therefore well located for inclusion in the central time zone. The Fort 
Berthold Indian Reservation, located in Mercer County, is currently in 
the central time zone.

Public Comments

    On March 3, 2010, the Department published a notice of proposed 
rulemaking (75 FR 9568) announcing the proposed change and inviting 
public comment. A DOT representative conducted a public hearing in 
Hazen, North Dakota on May 14, 2010. At the meeting, 14 persons spoke 
in favor of switching to central time and five spoke in favor of 
remaining in mountain time.
    Over 400 written comments were submitted to the docket. These 
submissions included many detailed letters, a number of anonymous 
comments, and some brief statements simply expressing a preference for 
either mountain or central time. The submissions came from individuals, 
businesses, medical service providers, local Chambers of Commerce, and 
school districts. We appreciate the time and effort of the people who 
expressed their opinion at the public meeting and through written 
comments, providing the Department with the factual basis upon which to 
make a decision.

Comments in Support of Central Time

    Approximately 250 comments, including written submissions and those 
comments made at the hearing, favored a switch to central time. Our 
decision, however, is not based on the number of comments supporting a 
particular time zone. As discussed above, the decision is based on the 
statutory ``convenience of commerce'' standard and the comments help us 
to make the decision by providing factual information regarding the 
impact of a time zone change on a community. The comments supporting a 
move to central time addressed five impacted areas that would be 
improved by a change of time zones: (1) Transportation, (2) business, 
(3) schools and other public agencies, (4) health care, and (5) family 
    In the area of transportation, many submissions noted that the 
closest transportation hub is Bismarck, which is on central time. 
Numerous individuals explained that catching a morning flight out of 
Bismarck is inconvenient, because they either have to get up very early 
in the morning to account for the one hour time difference, or pay to 
spend the night before their flight in a hotel.
    The docket included abundant comments focusing on the impact of a 
time zone switch on businesses in Mercer County. Most of the power 
plants and mines, which are major employers in Mercer County, already 
run on central time. The manager of Coyote electric generating plant 
expressed how confusing it is to be located in mountain time, but 
operating on central time.
    From the comments submitted, it appears that the majority of the 
county's businesses have their suppliers and customers in central time 
and believe that moving Mercer County to central time would serve the 
convenience of commerce. Many people explained that because their 
businesses primarily conduct transactions with entities located in 
central time, they lose valuable work time every day--at least an hour 
in the morning, an hour at lunch time, and an hour at the end of the 
day. The manager of the Beulah Motor Vehicle Branch Office wrote that 
all their office support comes from the State office in Bismarck, and 
they therefore lose three hours a day of contact with key support 
functions. The President of Dakota Helicopters, Inc. explained that 
they are in a ``constant battle'' to complete their daily activities 
with their vendors in a shortened time span, because the vendors are 
all on central time. Other comments focused on the ongoing struggle 
businesses face to schedule meetings, teleconferences, and seminars 
with businesses located in central time.
    Being on mountain time also adversely affects the quality of 
services that businesses in Mercer County provide, commenters asserted. 
A submission from the secretary and treasurer of Knife River Indian 
Heritage Foundation portrayed how frequently tourists get confused 
about the time and arrive too early or too late for events at the 
Foundation. The owner of Beulah Drug Company explained that all of 
their suppliers and technical support are located on central or eastern 
time; on many occasions they have needed a service or product, but have 
had to wait an extra day because the supplier was already closed. The 
Beulah Public Library is one of only two libraries in a 25-member 
consortium that is on mountain time, which creates scheduling issues. 
The Library also believes that switching to central time would allow 
them to better serve their patrons, because their hours would coincide 
with the area power plants and mines. Moreover, several business owners 
suggested that they would have an easier time recruiting employees who 
live in central time if Mercer County switched to central time.
    The Mercer County time zone also has a major impact on the schools. 
The Center-Stanton Public School Board, the Beulah Board of Education, 
and the Hazen Public School Board all submitted comments favoring a 
switch to central time. The Center-Stanton school district is currently 
divided, with half of the district on central time and half on mountain 
time. The Superintendent explained how this makes scheduling meetings 

[[Page 60006]]

and it also requires the students residing in Stanton to wake up very 
early in the morning to be ready for the bus.
    The Beulah School Board said that in the 2008-2009 school year 
school athletic teams participated in 180 varsity-level extracurricular 
contests, with 119 of those in central time. The comment explained that 
the students leaving school early for these events lose an hour of 
instruction more than they would if Mercer County were on central time. 
The Hazen School Board, as well as many parents of children in Mercer 
County schools, also expressed concern over the lost educational time. 
An added difficulty relates to the present trend of schools in North 
Dakota to move to distance education; the different time zones make the 
coordination of distance education cumbersome.
    A recurrent theme in the comments was that mountain time negatively 
impacts health care for Mercer County residents. A number of health 
care providers submitted comments to the docket addressing the 
operational issues that arise from the time zone difference. Some of 
the issues mentioned were that communications with health care 
facilities in Bismarck are more difficult to schedule, that patients 
often miss appointments because of the time difference, and that it is 
confusing for physicians in Bismarck to review charts of patients seen 
in Mercer County because they have to readjust the timeframe to 
determine when events occurred. The Medical Center noted that it is 
difficult for their providers to schedule follow-up appointments for 
patients who are seen in the middle to late afternoon at their clinics 
in Hazen, because the clinics in Bismarck and Minot are already closed.
    A large number of individuals described the inconvenience of making 
and attending medical appointments in central time. Many medical 
procedures are only offered in the larger medical facilities in 
Bismarck. These appointments are usually scheduled first thing in the 
morning. Thus, the Mercer County residents have to leave very early in 
the morning to get to appointments in central time. The Administrator 
of the Knife River Care Center, a long-term care facility in Beulah, 
wrote that they frequently transport residents to medical appointments 
in Bismarck. Having to leave so early in the morning makes it harder 
for the resident, the van driver, and the staff. The belief that 
medical care would be much more convenient if Mercer County switched to 
central time was mentioned numerous times in both the public hearing 
comments and the written comments.
    Many people also described the strain on family life that results 
from constantly coping with two time zones. They depicted households 
with two sets of clocks set to different time zones to accommodate the 
fact that the parents work in central time while the children attend 
school in mountain time. One commenter illustrated how confusing it is 
to make arrangements to see a high school basketball game and have 
dinner beforehand, when some of the family works on central time and 
some on mountain time. People wrote in to say that they feel like they 
live in a ``peninsula'' or ``pocket'' of mountain time and that their 
lives would be simpler if they lived in the same time zone as 
surrounding counties, the counties on three sides of Mercer County 
being on central time.

Comments in Favor of Mountain Time

    About 100 comments from individuals and businesses in Mercer County 
expressed support for mountain time. Comments voiced at the public 
hearing and also mentioned in the written submissions conveyed concern 
about children going to school in the dark. A high school teacher 
explained that she does not want to walk to school in the dark.
    Several individuals said they found living and working in different 
time zones to be very convenient. Some said that they enjoy finishing 
work in central time and still having time to shop in Mercer County 
where the businesses are still open. They can go to the drug store, the 
post office, and the banks after work. Other comments stated that a 
switch to central time would harm local businesses, because they would 
no longer offer the convenience of being open after the workers on 
central time, particularly those who work at the power plants, finish 
the workday. Additional commenters said that working on central time 
and having their children go to school on mountain time allows them to 
be home when their children get out of school and to attend school 
events without missing work. Several people enjoy that the evening TV 
news comes on earlier in mountain time than in central time. Some of 
the comments noted that Mercer County had been on mountain time 
throughout its history, and that the inconveniences of living on a time 
zone border (e.g., having two sets of clocks in the house) were things 
people were used to and could easily live with.
    Many comments asserted that mountain time is much preferred by the 
farmers and ranchers. Farmers were said to enjoy the extra daylight in 
the morning hours provided by mountain time, because they can finish 
their chores in time to attend evening events or to order parts from 

Other Issues

    Close to 50 written comments, most of them anonymous, requested 
that the matter be put to a vote, such as an advisory referendum on the 
November 2010 ballot. As a Federal agency, DOT has no authority to tell 
a county whether or not to hold a referendum, and it would be very 
inappropriate for us to do so. In addition, even if Mercer County were 
to hold a referendum on the time zone issue, the outcome of the vote 
would not necessarily be determinative. Rather, the Department is 
required to apply the statutory criteria set forth in the Uniform Time 
    Finally, several comments called for an end to daylight saving time 
observance in North Dakota. Under the Uniform time Act, State 
governments may decide to opt out of observing daylight saving time for 
all of the portion of a State in a given time zone. This issue is 
therefore outside the scope of this rulemaking. Those interested in the 
daylight saving time issue should explore the matter with their State 

The Decision

    After weighing all the material in the record for this rulemaking, 
DOT has decided to place all of Mercer County on central time. We find 
that the proposed change requested by the County Commissioners suits 
``the convenience of commerce.''
    We believe that the change to central time will benefit the 
community in a variety of ways. Many individuals and businesses in 
Mercer County look to areas in the central time zone for commercial, 
health care, and transportation services. The change will improve 
access to medical care by making it easier to attend appointments in 
Bismarck. It will also simplify travel arrangements for those using the 
Bismarck airport. Employees of the coal or electric power industry in 
Mercer County, as well as those commuting to Bismarck-Mandan for work, 
will be on the same schedule at home and at work. The change should aid 
commerce by placing suppliers and businesses on the same schedule, thus 
eliminating the shortened workday that has arisen for many businesses 
in Mercer County. In addition, school children will no longer have to 
miss extra instructional time when they participate in extracurricular 
activities. Mercer County will now be in the same time zone as its main

[[Page 60007]]

television broadcasts and newspapers. Finally, having Mercer County on 
central time should alleviate much of the confusion and scheduling 
complexity that have become a part of many residents' daily lives.
    We understand that there are a number of individuals who are 
satisfied with mountain time and that this change will not be an easy 
transition for them. However, the Department is required to apply the 
statutory criteria set forth in the Uniform Time Act, and the reasons 
advanced by proponents of mountain time were fewer and considerably 
less strong, with respect to the ``convenience of commerce'' criteria, 
than those made by persons favoring the change.
    This decision will go into effect on November 7, 2010, at the same 
time that North Dakota changes from daylight saving time to standard 
time. Because the time zone change and the change from daylight saving 
time to standard time will coincide, Mercer County residents and 
organizations will not have to change their clocks this fall.

Regulatory Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 and Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Department has determined that this action is not a significant 
regulatory action for purposes of Executive Order 12866 or the 
Department's regulatory policies and procedures. The rule primarily 
affects the convenience of individuals in scheduling their activities. 
It imposes no direct costs. Its impact is localized in nature, 
affecting only the residents of, and people who do business in, a 
single county. We expect the economic impact of this final rule to be 
so minimal that full Regulatory Evaluation under paragraph 10e of the 
regulatory policies and procedures of DOT is unnecessary. While some 
small entities (i.e., small business or governmental entities in Mercer 
County) will be affected by setting their clocks differently than in 
the past, the economic effects of doing so would not be significant, 
and would largely be economically favorable to them. Therefore, the 
Department certifies that the rule would not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.


    This final rule has been analyzed in accordance with the principles 
and criteria contained in Executive Order 13132 (``Federalism''). This 
final rule does not have a substantial direct effect on, or sufficient 
federalism implications for, the States, nor would it limit the 
policymaking discretion of the States. Therefore, the consultation 
requirements of Executive Order 13132 do not apply.

Unfunded Mandates

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531-1538) and 
E.O. 12875, Enhancing the Intergovernmental Partnership (58 FR 58093; 
October 28, 1993), govern the issuance of Federal regulations that 
impose unfunded mandates. An unfunded mandate is a regulation that 
requires a State, local, or Tribal government, or the private sector to 
incur direct costs without the Federal Government having first provided 
the funds to pay those costs. This rule does not impose an unfunded 

Protection of Children

    We have analyzed this rule under E.O. 13045, Protection of Children 
from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. This rule is not an 
economically significant rule and does not concern an environmental 
risk to health or risk to safety as defined by the Executive Order that 
may disproportionately affect children.


    This rulemaking is not a major Federal action significantly 
affecting the quality of the human environment under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and, therefore, an environmental impact 
statement is not required.

Consultation With Indian Tribal Governments

    Executive Order 13175 (65 FR 67249, November 6, 2000) requires DOT 
to have an accountable process to ensure ``meaningful and timely input 
by Tribal officials'' in the development of rules with Tribal 
implications. The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is located in Mercer 
County. However, the Reservation already observes central time. This 
rule helps the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation by placing the 
surrounding areas in Mercer County in the same time zone as the 
Reservation. Furthermore, the representatives of the Reservation did 
not comment on the rule. This rule does not have substantial direct 
effects on an Indian tribe, or on the relationship between the Federal 
Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and 
responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes. 
Therefore, this rule does not have Tribal implications and does not 
preempt Tribal law.

Privacy Act

    Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments 
received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual 
submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf 
of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT's 
complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on 
April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477-78) or you may visit 

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This rule does not create any information collection requirements 
covered by the Paperwork Reduction Act.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 71

    Time zones.

    Issued this 20th day of September, 2010, at Washington, DC.
Ray LaHood,
Secretary of Transportation.

For reasons discussed in the preamble, the Office of the Secretary 
amends Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 71, as 


1. The authority citation for 49 CFR Part 71 continues to read as 

    Authority: Secs. 1-4, 40 Stat. 450, as amended; sec. 1, 41 Stat. 
1446, as amended; secs. 2-7, 80 Stat. 107, as amended; 100 Stat. 
764; Act of Mar. 19, 1918, as amended by the Uniform Time Act of 
1966 and Pub. L. 97-449, 15 U.S.C. 260-267; Pub. L. 99-359; Pub. L. 
106-564, 15 U.S.C. 263, 114 Stat. 2811; 49 CFR 1.59(a), unless 
otherwise noted.

2. Revise Sec.  71.7 (a) to read as follows:

Sec.  71.7  Boundary line between central and mountain zones.

    (a) Montana-North Dakota. Beginning at the junction of the Montana-
North Dakota boundary with the boundary of the United States and Canada 
southerly along the Montana-North Dakota boundary to the Missouri 
River; thence southerly and easterly along the middle of that river to 
the midpoint of the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers; 
thence southerly and easterly along the middle of the Yellowstone River 
to the north boundary of T. 150 N., R. 104 W.; thence east to the 
northwest corner of T. 150 N., R. 102 W.; thence south to the southwest 
corner of T. 149 N., R. 102 W.; thence east to the northwest corner of 
T. 148 N., R. 102 W.; thence south to the northwest corner of 147 N., 
R. 102 W.; thence east to the southwest corner

[[Page 60008]]

of T. 148 N., R. 101 W.; thence south to the middle of the Little 
Missouri; thence easterly and northerly along the middle of that river 
to the midpoint of its confluence with the Missouri River; thence 
southerly and easterly along the middle of the Missouri River to the 
midpoint of its confluence with the western land boundary of Mercer 
County; thence south along the western county line of Mercer County to 
the southwest boundary; thence east and south along the southwestern 
county boundary of Morton County to the intersection with the boundary 
with Sioux County; thence west and south along the northern boundary of 
Sioux County to the center of State Highway 31; thence south along the 
center of State Highway 31 to the State border with South Dakota; 
thence east along the southern boundary of Sioux County in the middle 
of the Missouri River.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2010-24376 Filed 9-28-10; 8:45 am]