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The Industrial Commission Has A List. What Next? How About A Breather?
Written by Jim Fuglie   


(Cross-posted, with permission, from The Prairie Blog)

Well, okay, now there’s a list. On paper. Well, at least on a computer screen. It’s a list that the North Dakota Industrial Commission is “considering for at least one Commission member to tour” as they look at protecting places that have particularly sensitive archeological, paleontological, historical, recreational or environmental characteristics. That’s a start.

I wrote about this before. Back in May, the Industrial Commission, at the urging of Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, decided to make a list of special places and go on a tour to see what makes them special. And then this group of three important state officials, who issue all the oil and gas drilling permits in the state, would decide if any of those areas should be protected from oil development. The list, which you will find below, “is tentative and is being revised as scheduling is worked on.”

Okay, so what next? Actually, the better question is, what has happened recently? Since the Commission decided to do this, with much ballyhoo and great media coverage, probably 500 or more drilling permits have been issued to oil companies with no regard to the places on this list, at least as far as I can tell. Who knows how many of them are in, or on, or next to, the places on this list? Nobody, to my knowledge.

Then, at their last regular meeting, the Commission decided not to take a group tour, but to try to get to see as many of them individually as possible when their travels took them to western North Dakota. When will that be? Of course, nobody knows. Meanwhile, the Commission keeps on issuing drilling permits—at last count, as of Friday afternoon, 137 of them so far this month. And the month is just half over.

Is the list a complete list of places that ought to be considered “off limits” to oil activity? Not by a long shot. It’s a pretty good compilation of state and national parks, important historic sites, roadless areas treasured by hikers and hunters, and some wildlife habitat areas. But there’s a lot missing from this list. For example, there are about 30 North Dakota Wildlife Management Areas—places set aside to help provide wildlife habitat to our game and non-game species—in the area known generally as the “Oil Patch.” Only six of them are on the list. There are about ten National Wildlife Refuges in the same area. Only three are on the list. Hunters, birders and hikers ought to be pretty concerned about that.

We’ve got serious wildlife problems already out west, especially among mule deer, antelope and sage grouse populations. Those species are not making babies like they used to. They’re finding it pretty hard to get romantic with oil trucks running through their bedrooms.

I’m not even sure where this list came from. I asked officials at affected state agencies today if they had seen it, and none had. So those state agencies—Parks, History and Wildlife—haven’t even had any input yet. That seems strange. You’d think the Industrial Commission would want their paid experts to weigh in on this. I’d sure like to hear what they have to say.

So back to my question: What’s next? Here’s my suggestion.

Using this list as a starting point, bring in the state agency experts, add the wildlife areas and any missing significant cultural and recreational sites, and then hire someone to sit down with a map and a computer and make a database of the legal descriptions of all these places. That shouldn’t take more than a few weeks. The list isn’t that long.

Then every time a request for a drilling permit comes in, run the legal description against the database. If you get a match, set the application aside and have a good discussion, at an open meeting, with all interested parties present, about whether that permit ought to be issued or not. If it’s in a sensitive wildlife area, bring in Terry Steinwand’s folks and see what they think. If it’s an Indian burial ground, bring in Merl Paaverud. You get the idea.

Meanwhile, until the list is updated and the database is completed, I suggest we issue a moratorium on any further drilling permits. I guarantee they would get that database done in a hurry if they did that.

I’m dead serious about this. Like I said, it shouldn’t take more than a few weeks to decide on a list and make the database. Until then, just stop issuing drilling permits. That won’t shut down the oil industry. It won’t even slow it down. There are plenty of undrilled permits out there right now. The drillers will be plenty busy. They’ve probably got work stacked up for a year into the future, or longer, right now.

But it’s a good idea in any kind of game to stop and take a breather once in a while. This is the kind of breather we could all use right now—putting some thought into where oil wells should be located, instead of this mad frenzy we’ve been going through the last few years. It would show that the state is serious about protecting special places. After all, Jack Dalrymnple, Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Goehring said they were serious about it back in May. But nothing has happened since then. It’s time to make this happen. Otherwise, many more months, maybe years, are going to go by, and many hundreds, maybe thousands, of drilling permits are going to be issued, with no regard to this list of special places. That just seems goofy to me.

Here’s the list. What would you add?

Antelope Creek Wildlife Management Area

Black Butte

Bowman Haley Dam and Recreation Area

Bullion Butte

Chalky Buttes

Custer Campsites

Davis Dam

Deep Creek Bottoms

Ft. Dilts

Fort Union National Historic Site

Hofflund Wildlife Management Area

Initial Rock south of Fryberg

Kendley Plateau or is it spelled Kinley Plateau

Killdeer Battlefield

Killdeer Wildlife Management Area (Primitive Area)

Lake Ilo National Wildlife Refuge

Lewis and Clark State Park

Little Missouri River State Park

Lone Butte

Long X Divide

Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge

Medicine Hole on the Killdeer Mountain

Och’s Point Wildlife Management Area

Ponderosa Pine

Pretty Butte

Schnell Recreation Area

Sheyenne Grasslands

Square Butte

Stewart Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Strom Hanson IRA

Sulllivan Wildlife Management Area

Sully Creek State Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park—North, South and Elkhorn Units (Elkhorn Ranchlands)

Tracy Mountain

Trenton Wildlife Management Area

Twin Buttes

White Butte

Writing Rock south of Alkabo

All Little Missouri River National Grassland Roadless Areas

Oil Patch Update. Careful, This Could Ruin Your Day.
Written by Jim Fuglie   

Slawson Well

(Cross-posted, with permission, from The Prairie Blog.)

Cancel The Industrial Commission Tour Bus

After a couple of dustups over whether or not to grant oil and gas drilling permits on Killdeer Mountain and next door to the Elkhorn Ranch, the North Dakota Industrial Commission announced with great fanfare last Spring it would take a tour of oil country and begin making a list of important places in the oil patch where drilling should not be allowed.

The North Dakota news media jumped all over that.

The Forum: “North Dakota looks to protect ‘culturally important’ places”
The Tribune:  “Industrial Commission making a list”

And on, and on, in the state’s other newspapers, all over the radio and television news broadcasts, across the blogosphere. Great publicity, lots of backslapping, coffee klatch chatter like “these guys really do care.”

The Bismarck Tribune editorialized that an Industrial Commission tour of the oil patch “will give the members a better idea what kind of ‘view protection’ might be involved.”

Yeah, well, forget about it. Call Harlow’s and cancel the tour bus. It’s not going to happen.

At the very end of their meeting last week, the members of the Industrial Commission decided their schedules are just too busy for that. More important things to do. Can’t squeeze it in.

Instead, if the members—Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commission Doug Goehring—happen to get out west, they’ll take a look around and see what they can see. Stenehjem said he’s already been doing that. I believe him. Not too sure the other two will get much looking around done.

As for the “list,” well as I said here earlier, “That list pretty much already exists. Jack, just call in Merl Paaverud, Mark Zimmerman and Terry Steinwand, three of your cabinet members you probably don’t see very often, and have them bring in their lists of historic sites, parks, and wildlife areas in western North Dakota. There you go.

What’s bothersome is that there was much ballyhoo about the Industrial Commission actually getting their “boots on the ground” and reacting to citizen alerts on special areas of the state that should not be drilled. And then making a big new list of places they are not going to allow any new oil wells (maybe even including some wildlife refuges–see the next paragraph). And then not a mention of it in the news media when they say “Never mind.” That’s just the way those politicians want it to happen. Couldn’t have written the script better myself if I was a government media flack.

Leasing A Wildlife Refuge

One thing the news media did report, kind of, is the lead-up to yesterday’s State Trust Lands mineral lease auction in Medora. What you read in the papers is that the Game and Fish Department was recommending the Trust Lands Department take care not to jeopardize critical wildlife habitat when offering leases in areas their experts were concerned about. I also wrote about it a couple of times before the auction. You can read those stories here and here.

What really happened yesterday is that the Department of Trust Lands went ahead and leased the right to drill for oil and gas right in the middle of two National Wildlife Refuges, in spite of the fact the Game and Fish Department recommended that they advertise that if someone really wanted to lease that, they wouldn’t be able to put an oil well there.


Instead of putting a “No Surface Occupancy” restriction on the land, as the Game and Fish Department recommended, the Land Department put a stipulation that whoever leases the land will have to get permission from Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before they can drill a well there. At a glance, that looks like it accomplishes the same objective—if Game and Fish is recommending no well, then they probably will not give permission for one when the lessee comes around asking. But there’s no guarantee that will happen right now. Right now, Empire Oil, for example has leased the right for one of its clients to drill for oil and gas in the middle of a National Wildlife Refuge in Slope County. What happens down the road is up in the air.

Empire didn’t pay much for the lease–$25 an acre for 160 acres—so all that’s at risk is $4,000. Not much of a gamble in the oil patch. I asked Bill LaCrosse, president of Empire, what would happen if the wildlife agencies tell him they won’t allow a well on the refuge. LaCrosse, a serious man who runs a small land leasing company in Williston, spent much of the afternoon Tuesday with one ear glued to a cell phone, connected to the client—an oil company—he was there to represent, and the other responding to the auctioneer’s call for bids. He said he really didn’t think the client for whom he was bidding on the leases was interested in drilling in a refuge, and would probably find a way to get to the oil under the refuge by drilling in horizontally or diagonally from outside the refuge. That was reassuring. LaCrosse is not a driller, nor is he someone who, as I mistakenly said in an earlier blog, a speculator or “flipper” who buys minerals and then tries to resell them. Instead, he’s paid by oil companies to represent them in negotiations for mineral leases. His expertise is in finding the minerals and getting the rights to them. The oil company’s expertise is getting them out of the ground. He’s been around a while, and watched the industry grow, and he says the industry is much more environmentally responsible today than in past years. They have to be. They’re being scrutinized much more than in the past.

No oil company in its right mind would want a story to appear in the paper about one of their wells being in the middle of a national wildlife refuge. Unless, of course, they had gotten permission from the politicians, who appoint the agency officials, who make the rules. You know, the politicians who say they’re going to take a tour of sensitive places, like wildlife refuges, and make a list of places not to put oil wells . . .

Depends On What The Definition of “Immediately” Is

I reported here last week that the Industrial Commission had levied the largest fine in its history, a $1.5 million hit on Halek Operating, for illegally dumping 800,000 gallons of wastewater down a well. In reading through the order by the Commission, I found that it said “The sum of the fines listed in paragraphs (2) through (5) of the above order is $1,525,000 and Halek Operating ND, LLC shall make payment immediately to the Industrial Commission, Oil and Gas Division.” (emphasis added)

So I waited a couple of days and then contacted the Industrial Commission to see if “immediately” meant they’d gotten their check, and I also asked if the order signed by the Commissioners was the final step in the process, or if are there further court proceedings to follow the issuance of that order.

The response: “A party aggrieved by a Commission order can request reconsideration by the Commission and can appeal the order to the district court.

I guess, with a million and a half dollars on the table, Halek could be expected to do that. But let’s take a look at the Order approved and signed by the Commission. Halek was charged with four counts of violating the North Dakota Administrative Code. From the Order:

“Halek admits to Count One of the complaint . . .”

“Halek admits to Count Two of the complaint . . .”

”Halek admits to Count Three of the complaint . . .”

“Halek admits to Count Four of the complaint . . .”

Therefore . . .

“Based on the evidence . . . it is established that the violations admitted by Halek are amongst the most egregious violations ever pursued by the (Industrial) Commission in a complaint action.” (emphasis added)

”The evidence and Halek’s admissions prove the violations. The evidence further shows that these are egregious violations causing considerable risk of contaminating underground sources of drinking water in North Dakota. Moreover, there is evidence of deception, concealment, and intentional or willful violation of Commission rules, the Commission’s injection permit, and the Commission’s Order No. 17801.” (emphasis added)

“The Commission believes the maximum penalty allowed by law is appropriate under the circumstances.”

Well. There. When someone uses the word “egregious” twice, it certainly doesn’t get more definitive than that, does it? Let’s see if Halek “requests reconsideration by the Commission” or “appeals to the District Court.” That ought to be interesting. Especially since the Industrial Commission just said their fine is “appropriate.”

Oh, and I also asked where the money goes, once the check has been written. Whose account does it get deposited in? The answer: “As of July 1 (pursuant to HB 1333) fines are deposited in the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Plugging and Site Reclamation Fund of the state treasury. These funds are used to reclaim well sites when all other sources of collection from the operator have been exhausted.”

The nice secretary at the Industrial Commission has asked the Oil and Gas Division staff to notify me when the checks come in. I’ll pass that information along to you.

Somebody fibbed?

Over at the North Decoder website, Chad has posted a followup story about an oil well blowout last December up in the Van Hook neighborhood of Lake Sakakawea. You need to go read this. It is an excellent case of reporting, something the North Dakota news media could use a few lessons on.

Everybody that reported on it when it happened last December quoted the State Health Department and Oil and Gas Division officials saying it was really no big deal. “No threat to the public or the lake.”

Everybody except a Game and Fish Department employee, who went up and took a look for himself. He reported in an e-mail to his superiors “It (the oil, gas and brine water mist) goes out onto the lake approximately 4,100 feet . . . It is a lot worse than has been reported on radio and print media.”

That e-mail was sent December 19, 2012, six days after the blowout. It went to Terry Steinwand, Game and Fish Department Director, whose agency has a state wildlife management area next to the well. It said there was an official from the State Health Department along with the group that observed what the e-mail writer observed. It is now almost 8 months later, and no one has reported the scope of the blowout or subsequent cleanup (coverup?) efforts. You need to go read this story. Here.

Well. Have a nice day.

[Note from Chet:  The photo at the top of this page of is the well pad near Van Hook where the blow-out occurred in December.  The photo was taken by me near the end of June. I wanted to see what the area looked like after the burn-off and clean-up. And, yes, I'd been sitting on the story since the end of June.]
ND Republican Chairman Supporting Democrats in 2014?
Written by Chet   

The title of this blog post probably surprised you.  I'll make no bones about the fact that this question surprises me, too.  But it's a legitimate question.  Let me explain why.

If you have a pulse and live in North Dakota, you've met lots and lots of disgruntled former Republicans. I can't tell you how many people I know (though it's a lot) who have parroted these words: "I did not leave the North Dakota Republican Party; the North Dakota Republican Party left me."  The North Dakota Republican Party is full of cray cray.  The offensive categories range from "corporate sell-out" to "morbidly manipulatable sheep" to "American Taliban."  And everything in between.  So the masses are leaving the Republican Party.  Some are becoming politically disengaged.  Many are signing on with the Democratic-NPL.  (Welcome!)  Some aren't signing on, but they're still supporting Democrats in North Dakota.  It's all very interesting to watch.  

But something I heard about this past weekend kind of surprised me.  North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Bob Harms attended a $250 per supporter (recommended contribution) riverboat cruise last week on the Missouri River in Bismarck/Mandan.  The event was held for supporters of the Democratic-NPL Party state Senate Caucus.  

When I heard about this I did not believe it. I said, "Show me a picture and I might believe it." Well, I got pictures this morning. Here's one showing GOP Chairman Harms at the Democratic-NPL senate caucus supporter's cruise:


Now, you might be saying to yourself, "Chad; isn't having Harms -- the NDGOP chairman -- at a Dem-NPL meeting like inviting the fox into the henhouse?"  Or, "He must have stuck out like a turd in a punchbowl." I would beg to differ. As more and more Republicans abandon the NDGOP and support Democratic-NPL candidates because of the level of crazy in the Republican Party, why not have the Republican Party chairman show his support for Democratic-NPL candidates?  

From my perspective, by showing his support for Democratic-NPL candidates in the North Dakota senate race, Harms is trying to represent the views of the tens of thousands of disenfranchised former North Dakota Republicans who have completely abandoned their crazy party. He's thumbing his nose at the religious zealots and teabaggers, many of whom hold all the other leadership positions in his party, and telling them there is at least one person -- and only one -- in a North Dakota GOP leadership position who will bow to most of their nutbaggery, but not all of it.

I was glad to hear Democrats welcomed Chairman Harms to the event. It's good to see the Republican Party chairman supporting all the solid candidates the Democratic-NPL Party is offering up to serve the state in the North Dakota Senate.

Where's the Feigned Republican Outrage At Kevin Cramer?
Written by Chet   

WheresKevinSmI don't like starting a blog post with a disclaimer, but I'm going to today.  Here it is: I do not like Town Hall meetings. I generally think they are stupid, pointless and a waste of the presenter's (and everyone else's) time and resources. If you've ever been to a town hall, what you know is that Town Hall meetings in North Dakota are basically an opportunity for two things to happen: (1) the town hall presenter can choreograph a bunch of "friendlies" to show up, praise the presenter, and ask soft-ball questions, and (2) the craziest opponents of the presenter can show up with duct tape across their mouths, stupid signs and lame, meme-filled t-shirts, and protest -- yell -- at the presenter for something the protester clearly doesn't understand.

Keep in mind, I'm being critical of ALL town hall meetings.  Not just ones held (or not held) by Republicans (or Democrats). I've been to Republican town hall meetings, and to Democratic town hall meetings. Every one I've seen has been stupid and pointless.  (Note: I might still go to them, just to watch the fireworks, shoot some photos, and remind myself of why I hate them so much.)

Also keep in mind I do not, in any way, mean for this to suggest I'm against "availability" and "transparency." I'm all for frank, open discussions between office holders and constituents. It's just not my experience that staged, "friendly"- and protester-filledTown Hall meetings are where those discussions happen. If there are opportunities for me to have access to my elected representative, I'm good. Example: Though Earl Pomeroy didn't hold a thousand "town hall meetings" when he was in Congress it wasn't that uncommon for me to run into him in the grocery store. When I had a question for him while he was in Congress, if I didn't feel like calling his office and talking to his staff about it, I could just ask him in the produce aisle. You can't ask for much more than that. (For the record, I've never seen John Hoeven or Kevin Cramer -- both of whom live here in Bismarck -- in a grocery store.)

With that in mind, let's talk about outrage over town hall meetings.

Remember the phony Republican outcry over Earl Pomeroy's alleged lack of scheduled townhall meetings in 2010?  


Well, good news, if you've forgotten; the North Dakota Republican Party still (as of the time this goes to print) has it on their YouTube page (let me know if they take it down; I've pulled it from their page and will just reload it on mine, if they do):

They deleted their entire Youtube page, so I've posted it on mine.

Isn't that cute? They made a little graphic of Earl Pomeroy's face on a "Where's Waldo?" cartoon drawing and made t-shirts.


And do yourself a favor:  Google the words "Where's Earl Pomeroy" (don't use quotation marks).  You'll find four or five garbage-filled blog posts and other crap from teablogging morans on the right, complaining Earl didn't schedule enough opportunities to show up and yell incoherent Rush Limbaugh talking-points at him.

So here's my question:  If the 2010 outrage was real and not a bunch of fake, normal, NDGOP politlcal nonsense, where is the NDGOP's outrage over Kevin Cramer's lack of town hall meetings? Cramer promised to hold 100 town hall meetings every term.  If you think about it, a Congressional term is two years.  There are 52 weeks in a year.  So a two-year term is 104 weeks.  And he promised to hold 100 Town Halls every term.  That's almost one every week, average.  That's a pretty big (not to mention stupid) promise he made.

I did some Google searching looking for info on Town Hall meetings Cramer has held since he was elected. I only found info on one town hall meeting, and it wasn't even held in North Dakota.  It was in Moorhead.   He's about 30 weeks into his final term.  He should have had 29 or 30 Town Hall meetings by now.  How many has he held in North Dakota?


Cramer is several days into his month-long August vacation right now.  If you go to his official congressional website, you know what it says about his "upcoming events"?  It says, "There are currently no posted events."  It lists no "town hall" meetings.  No public appearances.  Here it is:



If he is not going to dishonor his name and his word, Cramer has a lot of catch-up work to do.  He needs to hold a lot of Town Halls, and fast. This month-long vacation he's got would be a great opportunity to do that.  But is he?  No.

You know what he did do though? Yesterday, Cramer had a "veteran's roundtable" in his office in the Federal Building. Know what I know about the Federal Building "roundtable"? No public invitation. No cameras. No cell phones. No questions from constituents. No produce. 

So where is the NDGOP outrage t-shirt?  Where's their Waldo graphic? Where's KFYR's TV crew interviewing the outraged executive director of the Republican Party about Cramer's lack of Town Hall meetings?

It's all crap.

"Impeach Obama" Protesters Could Fit In My Car
Written by Chet   

PhonyPotusCr3SmIf you're on Facebook, you've gotta go check out the "Overpasses for Obama's Impeachment - North Dakota" Fan Page. Someone was kind enough to take pictures of the "protest."  

The nice thing about a rally like this is that you could fit all the participants in a single clown car. I'm totally serious. I could have given all these people a ride to the psych unit in my car. Admittedly, I drive a big car. But still.

The pictures of two signs at the rally that really emphasized the level of crack-pottery going on there on Saturday were the ones that said, "Phony Potus" and "Kenyan." 

I think one of the protesters was "Lauren Gray" (stage name) from MOJO radio.  Can anybody confirm that? I think she's one of the people who commented quite a bit on the Fan Page. But I wouldn't be able to pick her out of a crowd, no matter how small. If that's her at the "protest," I'll have to continue to not listen to MOJO radio if she was involved. I'd ask if people would be interested in boycotting MOJO, but that would presume I thought anybody I know listened to MOJO. And I don't.

Oil Blow-out "A lot worse than has been reported"
Written by Chet   

VanHook002You're getting bad information.  The media keeps understating the severity of the oil spills in the Bakken. They're getting bad information from state government officials. With respect to one oil well blow-out, a government official has written, "It is a lot worse than has been reported on radio and print media."  The media isn't smart enough to figure it out. (Or they're bought off.) I'm gonna try to help them. And you.

Remember back in December there was an oil well blow-out a little ways southeast of New Town, North Dakota, a couple miles from the lake-front resort community of Van Hook?  If not, I'll refresh your memory.

Oil, gas and formation water spewed out, sometimes higher than utility poles, covering fields with a yellow mist Thursday at the site of a blowout at an oil and gas well near Van Hook.

The site is about 2 miles east of Van Hook, a resort community in southern Mountrail County along Lake Sakakawea. Van Hook, southeast of New Town, is on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The well site is near Lake Sakakawea to the north. Officials at the scene said Thursday afternoon there was no threat to the public or the lake.

[ ]

State officials said the wind was blowing the mist away from the lake. Roberts said they were ready to put booms on the lake if needed.

[ ]

One observer said the well was blowing oil all night and the sound was loud.

Minot Daily News (By Eloise Ogden, Minot Daily News)

Well, thank goodness there was no threat to Lake Sakakawea, right?  Luckily, reports (and reporters) were telling us the blow-out was contained nicely on the well pad or within a berm, with no oil or other contaminants reaching Lake Sakakawea.

Lake Sakakawea, less than one mile to the south of the well, was not in danger of being affected, Roberts said.

The well sprayed oil, gas and water containing brine, Roberts said. The mist drifted more than 2,000 feet to the southwest of the well before the wind shifted, he said. The mist was spraying to the north, and Roberts estimates it has affected an area of about 1,500 feet. The amount of oil released is unknown at this time, Roberts said.

ForumComm (By Amy Dalrymple)

More confirmation from the press that Lake Sakakawea was safe:

Lake Sakakawea is just 1/2 mile north of the well and as of Friday morning, Capt. Dan Murphy, a spokesman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, said there were no reports of and [sic] contaminants having reached the lake.

RigHands.com (by John Pendleton)

Ah, but there's also a wildlife management area nearby...

A state-owned wildlife management area borders the field where the well is located. The saltwater coming up with the oil is the most toxic.

BismarckTribune.com (By Lauren Donovan)

But, again, we were lucky to have a cracker-jack Bismarck Tribune reporter doing a story about the clean-up a week later and she didn't mention any impact on Lake Sakakawea, either.  Everything that blew out from the well  was "contained within a berm and vacuumed up for salvage."  


Here's some video of the blow-out...

But Lake Sakakawea is safe.

Disaster averted.


Back to your hum-drum life where you don't worry about oil companies poisoning the drinking-water supply for Williston, New Town, Bismarck, Mandan, Washburn and every other town or city along Lake Sakakawea and the Missouri River.  

These are not the droids you are looking for.


But... Hey, wait a minute.  Here's an email from Kent Luttschwager, Wildlife Resource Supervisor, at ND Game and Fish.  

From:  Luttschwager, Kent A.

(Click here for source) (highllighting added)

Hey, wait a minute!  I thought all the news stories said the wind blew the poisonous fracking liquids away from the lake!  I thought all the newspapers and radio and TV told us the oil and poison blow-out was contained to the well pad and an area around it surrounded by a berm!  And a guy in state government says "it is a lot worse than has been reported" in the press and oil sprayed out 4,100 feet onto the lake?!?  Forty-one hundred feet is more than three quarters of a mile. That's like nine (9) city blocks. The news reports suggested the well is "1/2 mile north of the lake." A half-mile is 2,640 feet. So they're saying the well sprayed 6,740 feet?!? I thought the news stories said the mist only blew 2,000 feet to the southwest, and only 1,500 feet to the northeast.  

What the Hell?!?

Let's dig into this a little bit more. Let's look at this the way a REAL journalist would look at it.  First, are there any reports that have been put together (besides this email) discussing the spill? Who would write up such a report?  Hmmmm... Think, think, think.  Well... I'm sure Slawson brought in a hired gun clean-up firm. They've probably done a report. (They did. Got it.)  How about... Game and Fish probably put together some reports and things, since it was their Wildlife Management Area that got soaked with oil and poison. (Got 'em.)  This wildlife management area is on the lake shore, so it's USACOE land.  Maybe they did a report.  (Yep. Got that.)  No North Dakota "journalist" has time to read all those.  So let's just go with the one with the fewest big words? How 'bout the report? Let's see what it says:

It was determined the crude extended approximately 6,490 feet onto COE lands (measured northeast to southwest using Google Earth Pro and GIS).  The crude extended approximately 4,100 feet into Lake Sakakawea (i.e., 4,100 feet measured from the 1850’ operating pool elevation).  Approximately one half of the 4,100 feet was on ice.  Crude was observed on snow, ice, bare ground, grass and trees (both deciduous and evergreen) during the site visit.  The crude was visible as either a layer within the snow (as previously discussed) or a sheen on vegetation.

Site Visit Notes

Okay, so the poisonous fracking juice only blew 6,490 feet, and not 6,740 feet.  Whew!  But, wait. That's still nearly a mile and a quarter, 4,100 feet of which was out onto the water. 

Hmmm...  I wonder what that looks like.  Well (pun intended), it looks like this:



Holy crap! From the looks of things, oil and poisonous fracking juice really did spray 8 or 9 city blocks out onto Lake Sakakawea.  

Thank God the wind wasn't blowing straight to the west. Why?  Well, because people live there.  

But the risk of a static spark that could start a fire was too high, so crews removed the equipment about 4 p.m. and the mist continued to spray to the north Thursday evening, Roberts said.

“One spark would have been one way too many,” he said.

ForumComm.com (By Amy Dalrymple)

Yeah, no sh!t.  One spark, and the whole place goes up in flames. Imagine the wind blowing straight to the West and some guy in Van Hook lights one cigarette and his whole community is smoked over.  That wouldn't be good, would it?

So here are the questions we should walk away from this with:

First, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to a wildlife management area?  Don't we have these areas so we can protect wildlife?  

Second, why are we letting oil companies frack oil wells so close to people's homes and communities?  It seems fairly clear that blow-outs are going to happen. And when they do, it's dangerous. And it can go undetected -- as here -- overnight.  

Third, aren't you glad there's a little bit of a buffer of federal land between frackable private land and a major tourism feature of North Dakota (i.e. Lake Sakakawea)?  Wouldn't it be tragic if someone had that land transferred from the feds back to the oil company shills in state government so they could make shoreline available for fracking? Or worse?

Fourth, shouldn't it be clear to all of us that it's not a question of whether there's going to be a major fracking disaster that devastates Lake Sakakawea, but when the disaster is going to happen, and how huge it is going to be? We were lucky, frankly, that this happened in the middle of the winter. Most of the poisonous fracking juice and oil could be scraped off a frozen lake pretty easily.  But it can't be scraped off an unfrozen lake.  

Fifth, Who is lying to us?  Is it Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem and Doug Goehrring, all of whom are directly responsible for what happens at the Industrial Commission's Oil & Gas Division office?  Is it the State Health Department, under Dalrymple?  Is it the media?  Can you think of a reason why North Dakota's media under-reported this event?  Could it be that they are making massive amounts of money from oil companies who run ads in their papers and on their radio stations.  Might it be that they're a bunch of cowering, pathetic chicken-shits, afraid they'll lose their gravy train? Or is it all of them?

Sixth, is this sort of lying happening all the time?  (Hint: Yes.)  Seriously, when is somebody going to do a story about the systemic lying from government officials working for Dalrymple, Stenehjem and Goehring in Oil & Gas? Have you noticed that every time there's a spill or a blow-out, initial reports say it was just one barrel of oil that spilled?  Or maybe five? Then, months later, the spill report is quietly amended to show it was a lot more oil than initially reported. The initial spill report always makes the news. It never makes the news when they change the number from "one barrel" to "one hundred barrels." It's not unlike our media's interest in the Oil & Gas Division press release about the initial report of millions of dollars in fines being levied, but then no reporting on the 90% reduction of those fines. I'd like a side of truth with my news.

Lastly, does anybody know what a ""USFWS contaminants girl" is? I'm imagining the Fish & Wildlife Service has hired a 12-year-old female to test for toxins around oil blow-outs.  You'd think they'd want someone older and with a college degree, maybe.

One day, somebody is going to put on their haz-matt suit and trek across the baren, toxic wasteland that is Mordor in Western North Dakota and hate all of us for letting them get away with this. 

We should do something about this.

Friday Diversion: Van Halen
Written by Chet   

(Mean Street)

Somebody said, "Fair warning," Lord

Lord, strike that poor boy down.

Fargo Judge Enjoins State From Enforcing Another Draconian Law
Written by Chet   

Here's the decision, for your Thursday perusal...

Preliminary Injunction from July 31, 2013 by northdecoder


My favorite parts of these decisions are the parts where Judge Corwin outlines, very candidly, his perceptions of the credibility and qualifications of the "experts" hired by the State of North Dakota.  Read footnote #1, for example.  To understand what the judge is explaining, you'd probably have to read his earlier decision.  If you need help finding that decision, let me know.  (It is and was worth the read.)  But also keep reading as Corwin explains the problems with the State's expert's affidavit, in which he expresses opinions he's clearly not qualified to make, about things he seems to know nothing (or little).  (See the botom of p. 5 through page 7, for example, and footnotes 3 through 10.)

It's also interesting that Judge Corwin notes video testimony from Republican legislator Ricky Becker, and provides the URL for the video of his floor testimony.  

Also interesting is Corwin's discussion of the requirement, in North Dakota's new law, that doctors have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and that they have privileges to perform abortion procedures at those hospitals.  Then he discusses how there are only three hospitals in the Fargo/Moorhead area.  One is a Catholic hospital where no abortions can be performed.  Another is the VA hospital, that's barred (by federal law) from performing abortions.  The third -- presumabely Sanford -- only bestows admitting priviles to doctors who "generate a specified minimum volume of business -- the provision of inpatient services to a minimum of five patients in the last twelve months."  Well, of course, the Fargo Women's Clinic hasn't provided Sanford with five patients in the last twelve months, so its physicians wouldn't qualify.  (And the law's drafters surely knew this.)  

Footnote 11 is also interesting.  Governor Dalrymple, when he signed the bill into law, referenced the burdensome "added requirement that the hospital privileges must include allowing abortions to take place at [that] facility."  He links to Dalrymple's statement to that, available online.  Then he points out the State's disingenuous effort, in the legal proceedings, to ignore that requirement.  

It's another interesting, well-written decision.  It's only 14 pages long.  You should read it.




John Hoeven Continues Campaign of Lies About Keystone XL
Written by Chet   

Hoeven2s[Update X 1] North Dakota Senator John Hoeven has again repeated his demonstrably false statement that the Keystone XL pipeline would create 42,000 construction jobs.

See that sentence I just wrote? You could probably call that sentence "the lede."  There's a word in that sentence that's kind of important.  The word is "demonstrably."  The word "demonstrably" is an adverb that means "in an obvious and provable manner." (Source.)  When paired with the word "false," the phrase "demonstrably false" suggests there is incontrovertable, findable evidence that would show that the thing being descibed is not true; the thing is a lie.  The notion that something can be proved to be false is something completely foreign to North Dakota journalists.

President Obama has said, recently, that the Keystone XL pipeline won't create as many jobs as Republicans claim it will create.

"Any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline -- which might take a year or two -- and then after that we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in a economy of 150 million working people."

New York Times

John Hoeven says he's outraged because President Obama is making up numbers about jobs that might be constructed by the potential construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Hoeven should know about making up numbers, as he's always pulling numbers out of his ass.  Here's Hoeven's latest Keystone XL nonsense.

“He’s just flat wrong on the numbers,” Hoeven said. “He’s talking about 2,000 construction jobs, but his own State Department says it will create 42,000 construction jobs. (Obama) talks about the oil not being used in the United States and gas prices being higher when his own Department of Energy did a report stating the oil will be used in the U.S. and will lower gas prices. The president is contradicting his own agencies.”

Dickinson Press

So Obama says the most realistic estimates suggest KXL will create "maybe 2,000 jobs" and John Hoeven says there's a State Department report pegging it at "42,000 construction jobs."  It seems like a semi-competent reporter could look into those numbers and "demonstrate" who is closer to the truth.  Am I right?

Or... if you were a completely incompetent reporter, you'd just leave it as a "he-said-she-said" disagreement. Only you'd leave it with the President's quote, and Hoeven saying the President's administration has estimated the 42,000 construction jobs number.

Okay, so... Let's pretend I'm a competent journalist.  Here's what I'd do: I'd look for the Obama administration's State Department report. And do you know what I'd find?  


Construction of the proposed Project would generate temporary, positive socioeconomic impacts as a result of local employment, taxes, spending by construction workers, and spending on construction goods and services. Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2 year construction period (of which, approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities).

The State Department Report (at E.S. 5.4.2)

See?  That's the actual report Hoeven is talking about.  It really wasn't that hard to find. (I used "the Google" again.) Hoeven says the State Department report says the building of the Keystone XL would "create 42,000 construction jobs."  The report says "3,900" construction jobs over a 1-to-2 year period.  Is there a "42,000" number in there?  Well, there's the number of jobs the KXL would "potentially support."  And I bet there's a definition somewhere for "potentially support."  A good reporter could look into that and would probably find out that it means the estimated 3,900 Keystone XL construction workers would stop in at businesses that employ 42,000 people.  That's probably gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, gift shops, hotels, clinics, hospitals and lots of other businesses.  Supporting those jobs is not the same as creating construction jobs.

And, admittedly, 3,900 construction jobs is not the same as the President's "maybe 2,000 jobs" number, right?  But he said "maybe" and he said "most realistic estimates."  So what might he be talking about?  Well, I don't know what "realistic estimate" he's talking about, but I do know that Cornell University did an indpendent study and concluded the jobs number could be as low as 2,500, and as high as 4,650.  (Source.)  Maybe there are other estimates out there, but that appears to be an objective report.

So maybe the President thinks the independent Cornell University study is more realistic than the optimistic State Department study.  But that leaves a bigger question:  Whose statement was "demonstrably false?"  The guy who said the "most realistic" estimate was "maybe 2,000" when there is an independent study saying the construction jobs estimate is as low as 2,500?  Or the guy who says the State Department report says KXL will create 42,000 construction jobs when the State Department report says it will create 3,900 construction jobs? And why didn't the Dickinson Press (ForumComm) reporter tell us about that demonstrable evidence?  Is it incompetence again?  Or just bias?

I report. You decide.

[UPDATE:  I just realized I forgot to pick apart one of the other obvious lies in Hoeven's quoted statement, above.  He says building the pipeline will lower gas prices.  I've written about this before, so I'm just going to cut and past what I wrote, and provide a link.  But I want you to know that it's not ME making up these facts; it's the company that wants to build the pipeline. They're the ones who insist building the pipeline will cause gas prices in the Midwest to increase.  Here you go...

Gas prices are guaranteed to increase in North Dakota and surrounding states because Canadian oil will no longer be available to North Dakota's refinery and others in the region. By advocating for the Keystone XL pipeline, John Hoeven, Rick Berg and all the Republican oil company puppets are advocating for higher gas prices for North Dakotans. How do we know this is true?!?  The company proposing the pipeline openly admits it -- even brags about it -- in Canada.  "According to TransCanada, KXL will increase the price of heavy crude oil in the Midwest by almost $2 to $4 billion annually, and escalating for several years. (Click here) It will do this by diverting major volumes of Tar Sands oil now supplying the Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel, adding up to $5 billion to the annual US fuel bill.  (Click here, go to page 27, for source)

An Intelligent Conversation About the Keystone XL

Hoeven might not like the facts, but it's a sign of his lack of character that he continues to choose to make up his own new facts while advocating for his Chinese owners.

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