I can barely stomach news about Western North Dakota these days. Every day it is something – either in the local or national news; unfortunately, it is so rarely good news. The infrastructure cannot support the oil boom, the environment is suffering, criminal activities are on the rise, and the identity of the state is changing dramatically (and not in good ways). I am just a transplant with 15 years in, but even I can tell you that this wholesale sell out of North Dakota is wrong for North Dakota.
One of my old law school chums sent me an article from MSNBC about the blessings and curses of the oil boom. It was just another reminder for me of how troubling the oil patch and its implications are for our state. The article focused more on environmental impacts than social impacts, but those impacts alone should give every North Dakotan pause.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
“According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.
State officials say most of the releases are small. But in several cases, spills turned out to be far larger than initially thought, totaling millions of gallons. Releases of brine, which is often laced with carcinogenic chemicals and heavy metals, have wiped out aquatic life in streams and wetlands and sterilized farmland. The effects on land can last for years, or even decades.
Compounding such problems, state regulators have often been unable — or unwilling — to compel energy companies to clean up their mess, our reporting showed.
Under North Dakota regulations, the agencies that oversee drilling and water safety can sanction companies that dump or spill waste, but they seldom do: They have issued fewer than 50 disciplinary actions for all types of drilling violations, including spills, over the past three years.”
Scary stuff. The illustration below that was included with the article provides a good overview of the process of hydraulic fracturing and its risks.
I fear for North Dakota. Sound the alarm folks – there is a big cost that goes with this benefit. North Dakota is not an afterthought to be thrown away for economic benefit. North Dakota is a way of being, thinking, and living that puts quality of life over the trappings of economic gain…or it used to be that place.
Our way of life and the things we value about the state are changing dramatically. Step up North Dakotans and make it clear to those who are harvesting North Dakota without regard for its long-term well-being that this state and our way of life is not for sale.
Day one thousand and seventy of the new forty – obla di obla da