This is a time to get together and eat and talk , just time for our friends. There is no format, dues, agenda etc., We can meet anytime or place we decide, picnic pot luck, local food, anything we want to, even invite speakers. But for now please show up, eat and talk to like minded friends. No need to RSVP just stop by and eat. email Trana if you like.
North Dakota's Blue Cross Blue Shield has to be sitting on a big pile of money because of the recent Democratic Health Care Reforms. Look at what's happening in North CAROLINA:
RALEIGH, N.C. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said Monday that it would refund $155.8 million to 215,000 policyholders because of the national health reform effort.
Brad Wilson, chief executive of Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, said the refunds would be issued by the end of the year to people who had individual Blue Advantage or Blue Options HSA policies on March 23, the date when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 into law.
"This is not necessarily in response to any criticism. It's simply the right thing to do," Wilson said. "A new law was enacted, new rules are in force, change is in the air."
Refunds will be equivalent to a little less than two months of premiums, meaning the average policyholder who pays a $380 monthly premium would receive about $690 back, he said.
Like North Carolina's BCBS, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is a "non-profit." And North Carolina's BCBS likely has the same (or similar) reserve requirements as North Dakota, no? And the North Carolina reduced rate increases and premium refunds are happening because North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner -- Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat -- worked it out with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Read Goodwin's office's press release by clicking here.
So... you may be asking yourself... "Where's my Insurance Commissioner?"
"Where is North Dakota's Insurance Commissioner?"
"Where's my reduced premium increase?"
"Where's my refund?"
A refund like the folks in North Carolina are getting makes Health Care Reform look pretty good. Record low premium increases make Healthcare Reform look pretty good. A Republican Insurance Commissioner -- like Adam Hamm of North Dakota -- would never promote these things right now.
It's too close to the November election. It would conflict with the Republican narrative.
We're paying for the Republican narrative.
This is yet another example that proves North Dakota's single-party rule is bad for all of us.
The Bismarck Tribune is reporting today that the North Dakota Public Service Commission imposed an enormous $1,000 (one thousand dollar) fine on Coteau Properties for pumping water out of one of its ponds and causing soil erosion:
Commission Chairman Kevin Cramer said the pond collects runoff and allows sediment in the water to settle. The pipe outlet extended about 60 feet outside the boundaries of the mine's permit area.
Coteau appears to be a wholly owned subsidiary of North American Coal Company. Coteau's annual revenues are estimated to be in the range of $100 million to $500 million per year, according to Manta.com, while North American Coal is a much larger company with annual revenue last year in the neighborhood of $2.3 billion, according to Reuters.
An anonymous source at Coteau was contacted to see whether he felt this devastating $1,000 fine would be the final nail in the coffin for Coteau Properties. The anonymous source said, "I think we'll probably be able to pull through this."
Yesterday the Supreme Court set the calendar for its October term. You can see that arguments will be held on RecallND v. Jaeger will be held on October 20th. You can read all of the briefs here. The Attorney General actually has a pretty well-written brief. It pretty cleanly knocks off the arguments that Schlafly and Sheets make on behalf of RecallND. The one thing I find interesting is that they do not address the question of standing. As I've mentioned before, RecallND did not submit a petition to recall Kent Conrad, making it hard to show a justiciable interest in the case, which you have to do in order to achieve standing to sue. For whatever reason they decided not to pursue it. Listen to oral arguments live on October 20th at 1:30 PM CDT here. That's right, your state Supreme Court posts oral arguments faster than the U.S. Supreme Court. Take that Roberts!
And now a step back for a moment to allow me to compliment a Republican. Al Jaeger is a really nice guy, and I mean that quite seriously. He sent me a note this morning about the fact that arguments were scheduled regarding this case (which I had learned from an email that Justice Sandstrom's office sends out with news from the court (something worth subscribing to)). Jaeger has been nothing if not professional in my dealings with him, which I have had a lot of. I'm sure he cannot be happy seeing my email address show up in his inbox as often as it has in the last few months. Obviously I have issues with the way he's managed the office of Secretary of State, how he has run elections, his poor management of employees, the lackluster website he has cobbled together, and a number of other issues with his ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities(not the least of which include Corey Mock's most recent revelations about his bungling of IT projects that have cost the state $2 million dollars but have produced nothing material as of yet. I am working on some of that. Stay tuned), but let it not be said that Al Jaeger isn't professional, good natured, and even good humored. He is, and I appreciate that from any public servant, regardless of his or her politics.
I will now return to being a partisan hack in 5...4...3...
Meanwhile, Republicans announced, today, that if they take majorities in the House and/or Senate, they'll fight to eliminate these changes that kicked in today:
Ban on discriminating against children with preexisting conditions: as of tomorrow, insurance companies can't deny coverage to children under age 19 for a pre-existing condition. The ban will go into effect for adults in 2014.
Ban on rescission: insurers will be prohibited from dropping a customer when they get sick or to search for errors in customers' applications to use as a basis for rescinding coverage or denying payment for services.
Ban on limiting coverage, lifetime caps: Insurers will no longer be able to impose lifetime dollar limits on benefits--particularly hospital stays or expensive treatments for chronic diseases, cancer, etc. By 2014, they will phase out annual caps.
Ban on limiting doctor choice in new plans: insurers will have to allow primary care physician status for OB/GYNs and pediatricians so that patients don't have to get pre-authorization or referrals to see these providers.
Ban on restrictions on emergency services: insurers will have to cover all emergency care, in or out of network.
Guaranteed right to appeal insurer decisions to independent third party in new plans;
Young adults can stay on their parents' plans til 26 unless they have access to coverage in their workplace;
New plans will cover preventive care with no customer costs--well-baby, mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. will be covered with no co-pays or deductibles.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. A new section to chapter 36-01 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:
Fee killing of certain captive game animals prohibited – Penalty – Exception. A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if the person obtains fees or other remuneration from another person for the killing or attempted killing of privately-owned big game species or exotic mammals confined in or released from any man-made enclosure designed to prevent escape. This section does not apply to the actions of a government employee or agent to control an animal population, to prevent or control diseases, or when government action is otherwise required or authorized by law.
SECTION 2. EFFECTIVE DATE. This Act becomes effective on November 1, 2012.
North Dakota Hunters for Fair Chase (NDHFC) is a non-profit group of North Dakota hunters who organized to protect North Dakota’s public hunting heritage from anti-hunting extremists and people who have profit-driven motives to destroy our constitutionally protected hunting heritage under Section 27 of the ND Constitution. Details about NDHFC can be found at: http://northdakotafairchase.com/
NDHFC has never, nor will it ever, accept any money or solicit endorsements from any group that does not fully support the public’s right to hunt.
During the past year NDHFC volunteers gathered signatures across the state for an initiated measure that would enact a North Dakota state law to stop the despicable pay-to-play practice of “fee-killing” captive big game and exotic mammals caged in enclosures such as high fences or pens designed to prevent escape. That measure to prohibit fee-killing of captive big game species and exotic mammals will be on the November 2010 ballot and deserves a “yes” vote from anyone who values the traditions that have made the North Dakota outdoors the revered resource it is. This short video depicts what high fenced “hunting” is all about:
Fair Chase is the gold standard of hunting ethics by which we are judged as sportsmen. The prestigious Boone & Crockett Club founded by Teddy Roosevelt articulates this concept well: Boone & Crockett Club on Canned Shooting
Boone & Crockett supports our position as evidenced by their statements on Fair Chase and their condemnation of fee killing confined big game animals.
High fenced shooting provides anti-hunting groups with ready-made propaganda to mislead the non-hunting public about North Dakota’s ethical public hunting heritage in their misguided efforts to ban all public hunting. Radical animal rights groups use “fenced” or “canned hunts” to tarnish the image of all hunters in their efforts to get federal legislation enacted to limit or eliminate the public’s right to hunt. In a “fact sheet” entitled Why Sport Hunting is Cruel and Unnecessary, PETA rationalizes elimination of all hunting by using fenced hunts as an example of “sport hunting”:
Most hunting occurs on private land, where laws that protect wildlife are often inapplicable or difficult to enforce. On private lands that are set up as for-profit hunting reserves or game ranches, hunters can pay to kill native and exotic species in “canned hunts.” These animals may be native to the area, raised elsewhere and brought in, or purchased from individuals who are trafficking in unwanted or surplus animals from zoos and circuses. They are hunted and killed for the sole purpose of providing hunters with a “trophy.”…
…Animals on canned-hunting ranches are often accustomed to humans and are usually unable to escape from the enclosures that they are confined to, which range in size from just a few yards to thousands of acres. Most of these ranches operate on a “no kill, no pay” policy, so it is in owners’ best interests to ensure that clients get what they came for. Owners do this by offering guides who are familiar with animals’ locations and habits, permitting the use of dogs, and supplying “feeding stations” that lure unsuspecting animals to food while hunters lie in wait….
Nothing in this measure prevents hunting of elk in Theodore Roosevelt National Park or limits what a rancher can do with any livestock such as cattle or buffalo.
Instead, the measure is focused on keeping North Dakota from being an island state surrounded by other states that have already banned “fenced hunts” - thus making North Dakota ripe for further expansion of the high fenced industry. It is quite evident that out-of state commercial deer and elk groups see North Dakota as a prime market to expand pay to play high fenced shooting preserves as their home states restrict or ban them. To date, these out-of state money interests have reported to the North Dakota Secretary of State that they have spent $84,000 in their efforts to advertise against or obstruct the measure’s signature process in hopes the voters wouldn’t have a chance to exercise their right to decide what is best for our state. Their advertisements have been a “guise”, claiming that they are only interested in protecting “property rights”. No doubt these groups will spend tens of thousands of dollars more now that the measure is on the November ballot, all the while disguising their true motives from the voters. They may even fund, or continue to fund, in-state groups pretending to be property rights advocates. Note all 3 pages in this report: ND SOS disclosure
The reality is, however, the more high fenced shooting operations we have in our state the greater the risk of diseases infecting our wild deer and elk populations. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), cervid strains of Bovine Tuberculosis, and new parasite infections like the Fallow Deer Louse have been scientifically linked to captive deer and elk facilities in other states before transferring into wild populations. USGS CWD Map
The Fallow Deer Louse was first reported in Oregon and then spread across the West Coast of the US and Canada while decimating native deer populations. In one years time it jumped the Rockies from Washington State into Wyoming and South Dakota. It is now expanding into the upper watershed of the Little Missouri. Fallow Deer Louse Invasion
To date, Wisconsin alone has spent over twenty million dollars and has eradicated thousands of wild deer in their attempts to contain CWD transmission. Wisconsin Lab Reports
In Montana, one of the many states that already banned high fence shooting, voters recognized that threat to public hunting and public wildlife and their voters acted through initiated measure to protect their wild deer and elk herds. None of the bans in these proactive states have been overturned in any court decision – including cases that alleged a property right infringement. NDHFC strongly supports the property rights of our citizens, both private property and public property. By voting yes on measure #2, voters will instill in law appropriate protections for public property in the traditions of President Teddy Roosevelt and many others before and after him.
There is no economic benefit pay-to play high fenced shooting offers our state that offsets the risk to the fifty million dollars public big game hunting generates for North Dakota every year.
A UND survey and also national polls have shown a vast majority of the public supports bans on high fenced shooting and numerous hunting organizations and outdoor publications have endorsed this North Dakota measure. Some of those include The Mule Deer Foundation; The North Dakota Wildlife Federation; The North Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Society; Dakota Country Magazine; and MuleyCrazy Magazine.
North Dakotans who care about protecting our proud hunting heritage have an opportunity to speak loudly by voting “yes” on this measure. The time to stop fee killing is now.
Already the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has had to kill numerous wild deer and elk exposed to fenced hunting operations and have had a number of other enforcement cases that show we are playing Russian roulette with North Dakota's hunting future. Regulatory Violation File
[Editor's Note: We invited the folks from ND Hunters for Fair Chase to submit their argument. I wanted to see their argument partly because I'm still kinda undecided on the issue. I'll reserve my substantive comments for the comments section. What do you think?]
Former North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance Director Charles "Sandy" Blunt made the Fargo For'em earlier this week. Here's the plug he got:
LEAFY SPURGE:To Former North Dakota WSI director Sandy Blunt and his legal team for dragging out attempts to appeal his felony conviction regarding his misuse of agency funds. In the latest chapter last week, a district judge ruled that a prosecutor did not withhold information from the defense during Blunt’s trial, which, if proved, could have resulted in a new trial. The North Dakota Supreme Court previously had upheld the conviction. Blunt certainly has every right to exhaust all legal remedies, but this latest tactic was transparently desperate, and Blunt’s lawyer had to know that. Enough. Whether the law Blunt violated is unreasonably restrictive is not the issue. He violated the law that is on the books. Every court that has heard the case said so. He should take his medicine and be done with it.
Blunt filed a "Notice of Appeal" on September 16, 2010. That would have been Thursday of last week. So, actually, Blunt had appealed before the Fargo For'em decided to urge Blunt to "take his medicine." (Maybe if the Forum hired an investigative journalist, they would have checked this before publishing their editorial.)
Well... I finally got a chance to read the Order Blunt is challenging. Frankly, I gotta say... good luck, pal. Seems to me there are three issues the Court might consider: (1) whether there was a Brady violation, (2) whether there was a Rule 16 violation, and (3) whether there was a violation of Rule 3.8 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Here's a summary of what it looks like the Judge did with each of these:
(1) Brady: As the judge pointed out "The Defendant does not raise a Brady violation." He then surmises why that might be. "The Court can only surmise the reason Brady is not mentioned by the Defendant is none of the 4 elements of Brady can be shown." This is a non-issue in the case.
(2) Rule 16: Everyone in the case seems to point to the case of City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad as it relates to Rule 16. The lesson of Ramstad is that if the government has exculpatory evidence (i.e. evidence that leans away from guilt) in its possession or in the possession of some cooperating government entity, the government has to turn it over. In the Blunt case, it appears the state took the position that the evidence that Blunt might not have had -- though it's not perfectly clear he didn't have it -- was not exculpatory. The judge seemed to agree. In doing so, the judge noted Blunt had other evidence/information containing the exact same information, and Blunt made a strategic decision not to use that (exact same) information. But, for discussions sake, let's say the evidence was withheld, and that it was exculpatory. The next thing a defendant has to show is that he was "significantly prejudiced by the discovery violation." Without such a showing... game over. The judge seems to point out that nothing was presented by Blunt to show any prejudice, let alone "significant prejudice." If Blunt didn't present anything to show he had been "significantly prejudiced," it seems like it's all over but the roadside garbage collecting. Though anything is possible, it seems like themz is some big hurdles for Blunt to circumnavigate on appeal.
(3) Rule 3.8. The whole Rule 3.8 argument seems to have teetered on the strength of either of the first two. Without a Brady or Rule 16 violation, the judge didn't seem to believe there could be a Rule 3.8 violation.
For my lawyer friends out there, I'd really urge you to click on that hyperlink, above, and read the order. I've heard some grumbling out there about how the judge seems to think a prosecutor can get away with just saying their office has an "open file" policy, and then they don't have to send out their evidence/discovery materials. Well... that's not exactly true; that's not what I took away from the order.
But those (see above) seem to be the sub-parts of the ruling Blunt is saying he'll be challenging.
Know what I think? I think it's not about Sandy Blunt's felony conviction anymore. It might have been about that at one point, but it's just not anymore. I think it really is personal now. Not that it hasn't been really, really personal for some folks in this deal for some time now, but I think Blunt and his "anonymous supporters" have ramped it up a notch.
They're looking at this politically now, too. Blunt's prosecutor is running for district court judge AND she has this ethics complaint -- presumably (and I'm only guessing here, but it's an educated guess) initiated by one local "anonymous supporter" crack-pot right-wing nutbag with initials S.C. -- pending against her. With a judicial determination that there was no Rule 3.8 violation (see above), and factual findings that seem to support that conclusion, it's hard to imagine how that finding could be superseded in a different (i.e. disciplinary) case. We have a thing called "res judicata" here in America. The thing has been adjudicated. Of course, there's a higher court that can look at the issue...
and that's what I think this is all about...
I think Blunt's a smart guy. I think he's smart enough to recognize he's a long-shot at this point. And he's throwing his money at the long-shot. But I don't think it's about "winning" anymore. I think Blunt's goal is to keep his case alive so people can attack the prosecutor for having "alleged" ethics violations against her. I could write the radio spots. I could write the lit pieces for S.C. to circulate in all his free time. I could write his next fiction-based "prevaricating prosecutor" piece. And they've got money to pay to continue going after her.
Remember that big pile of severance money ($150,000 ) the WSI Board gave to Blunt as a reward?!? Remember how he gave them a "good old-fashioned belly laugh" when asked about the allegedly illegal severance package?!?
I won't ask the obvious question.
I wouldn't be surprised if the appeal is abandoned after the November election.
But I will say this: Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The Fargo For'em's leafy spurge recipient is deserving of the award.
It's time for the former WSI director to serve the lenient sentence, turn the page and start a new chapter.
While I was gone, did you happen to see Fargo Forum Editor Jack Zaleski's editorial over the weekend? Here's a snippet:
In the race for North Dakota’s lone U.S. House seat, both sides are guilty of character assassination and mischaracterization of their opponent’s policy positions.
Democratic Congressman Earl Pomeroy’s minions are less than subtle in alleging that Republican Rick Berg is lying about his stance on Social Security privatization and drilling for oil and gas in national parks. For his part, Berg is approving campaign ads that paint Pomeroy as out of touch with “the North Dakota way.”
Truth is hard to find in either camp.
When asked (by me) at a recent Forum Editorial Board meeting, Berg was quick and clear: He favored drilling for oil and gas on federal lands and jackpotting the revenue to shore up Social Security. When pressed about drilling in national parks (specifically, Theodore Roosevelt National Park), he did not back away from his proposal. However, when Berg and his campaign people realized he’d stepped with both feet into a buffalo pie, he “clarified” his words, saying he would never drill inside the parks but rather outside with horizontal drilling technology. Fair enough. Even Pomeroy’s toadies should understand that clarification is allowed.
Did you follow that? Rick Berg first said he supported drilling "on federal lands" like, "specifically, Theodore Roosevelt National Park." Then, after the informal polling data came in and EVERYBODY ran away from Berg and this insane, ridiculous position (one amongst many, I might add) that he clumsily "clarified" -- and the quotation marks around that word ARE NOT mine; they are Zaleski's -- that he didn't mean what he had said.
Translation: Berg had a major, substantive anti-North Dakota gaffe and then tried hard to pull his foot out of his mouth. Democrats thought his important, substantive gaffe was worth pointing out to people they hope will be informed voters.
And -- in Zaleski's eyes -- Democrats are bad, rotten, character assassinators for pointing out the absurdity of Berg's obviously firmly-held position -- one he'd expressed before, too, I might also add -- that we should destroy our national parks by filling them up with oil wells and roads for big oil trucks to drive around on. Democrats are bad people for pointing out bad policy positions of Republicans like Rick Berg and John Hoeven.
The rest of Zaleski's editorial is kind of critical of Republicans. And the criticism is a legitimate criticism. But Zaleski couldn't ONLY write an editorial that's critical of a Republican. In his eye, it's better to do a mediocre job of pretending to be be politically neutral than to occasionally be critical of his fellow Republicans. Zaleski is clearly comfortable writing stuff critical of Democrats. He does that all the time. But he just can't quite bring himself to be critical of a Republican without throwing in some transparent, nonsensical attack on Democrats... "for balance."
You know... Like writing a "balanced" editorial insisting the sun comes up in the South, just to give balance when Democrats say it comes up in the East and Republicans say it comes up in the West.
Here's a tip, Jack: Sometimes editorials critical of Republicans don't require political "balance."
Sometimes facts are facts. It might hurt your golden boy's feelers to publish those facts, but it's your job to publish facts.
You should give that a try sometime.
(... and, by the way, Rick Berg did vote to privatize social security. We blogged about that before, too. Maybe Jack should read that blog post. [click here, Jack])
All the standard caveats about internal polling aside, this has to be relatively good news coming from the Pomeroy campaign. They just sent out a press release about three internal polls that they conducted over the last several months. The first two were done in the early summer(May and June), and showed him polling 49 or 50% to Berg's 47%. Now, as campaign season has come into play and the harsh tone of the campaign kicks in, Earl does seem to be pulling even with Berg. Pomeroy's pollster(Garrin-Hart-Yang, which, while categorized as a Democratic polling operation, has a somewhat better than average rating by FiveThirtyEight.com) has him ahead 46-44 against Rick Berg with 10% undecided. It also has Pomeroy polling 23 points ahead of Rick Berg with independents. This would run counter to Rasmussen's outlier that has the race pegged at 53-44 in favor of Rick Berg. Pomeroy has either gotten his game back since mid-August, Rasmussen had poorly weighted its numbers or done something else to massage their numbers, or some of both, but regardless, Pomeroy is still well within the chances of keeping his seat come November.
I should re-emphasize the obvious here, that this poll is an internal poll commissioned by the Pomeroy campaign. Not knowing a lot about how the poll could be conducted, this could be too far off in either direction. That being said, it is also the only other set of polls I have seen that have not been performed by Scott Rasmussen, which is important to note. These are the only snapshots of the race that were not taken by an organization with an explicitly conservative agenda. This race is far from over. We have weeks of campaigning to go. October is close at hand. Expect the big guns to come out pretty quickly.
The Weather.com forecast for the Bad Lands on Monday showed a couple of days of mostly sunny skies with possible showers, so we loaded up the tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, food and hiking boots and headed west. We settled in about supper time on a Little Missouri River gravel bar a mile or so from the Elkhorn Ranch site, on some Forest Service land near the ranch owned by a friend of ours.
Tuesday was a grand hiking day. Mid-afternoon found us at the Elkhorn Ranch site, and as we walked down the mowed trail, we heard, behind us, a steady cadence: thump . . . thump . . . thump . . . thump . . . We paused to listen, and then Lillian said “It’s that oil well, up on the ridge.”
There are, in fact, three oil pumpers about a mile and a half, maybe two miles, from the Elkhorn site, high on a ridge overlooking the Buckhorn ranch, just upriver from the Elkhorn. You can see one of them from the ranch site (oil companies love busting the skyline instead of tucking their well pumpers down in a draw where you can’t see—or hear—them).
And what had happened as we hiked was that the wind was behind us, blowing maybe 15 or 20 miles per hour (a gentle zephyr by North Dakota standards), and carrying the sound of that well over that distance. Once we realized what it was, of course, it sounded even louder. THUMP . . . THUMP . . . THUMP . . . THUMP . . . THUMP.
Now this was not one of those old 20th century one-lung pumps you could hear for miles and miles. No, this was a modern, 21st century, state-of-the-art pump, and we could hear it – and see it – distinctly, from almost two miles away.
That’s what’s so troubling about Rick Berg’s statements that he thinks we should allow horizontal drilling under Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I don’t want to see or hear any more oil development from Buck Hill or the Oxbow Overlook. I don’t think most North Dakotans, or most Americans, for that matter, do either.
But mostly there are two things about Rick Berg, and this whole issue he brought up a week or so ago, that really trouble me. The first is that I’m not sure Rick really knows much about western North Dakota. The second is he is running for an office that could affect policy about how we deal with western North Dakota, and if he should win, he could prove to be a big embarrassment to us as a state.
Let’s deal with these one at a time. We have oil under most of western North Dakota. Probably 15 million acres of land in western North Dakota have some oil under them. The Bakken alone, currently our most productive field, is under, from what I can tell, at least 3 million acres of North Dakota, probably more. The federal government owns more than a million acres in the western North Dakota. New wells are being drilled as fast as we can get drilling rigs to North Dakota. As I stated in an earlier column, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is just 70,000 acres out of the 15 million acres with oil under them. The National Park is less than one tenth of one per cent of the land in North Dakota with oil under it. It is less than 4 per cent of the land owned by the federal government with oil under it. So why in the world would we even be talking about drilling there? When we’ve drilled every other federal acre, the other 96 per cent, perhaps, 20, 40 or 100 years from now, we can discuss it. Maybe.
The second point is that people with screwed up priorities who get elected to office can do real damage, and so we need to try to be a little careful about who we elect. Case in point:
In its final days, the Bush administration issued new management plans for the spectacular red rocks area of southern Utah, and announced they would begin leasing on the fringes of places like Arches National Monument for drilling for oil and natural gas. Sure enough, in December 2008, the Bureau of Land Management went ahead and held a lease sale for mineral acres just outside a number of national parks and proposed wilderness areas in Utah. Just days after the sale, wilderness organizations filed a lawsuit, and in January a judge granted a temporary restraining order against the BLM, halting the issuance of the leases. In early February, just two weeks after President Obama took office, his new Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, ordered the BLM (often called the Bureau of Leasing and Mining by people like us) to cancel the sales. Secretary Salazar explained that his actions were necessary because “[i]n its last weeks in office, the Bush Administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases at the doorstep of some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes in Utah.” Thank you, Secretary Salazar, for proving, once again, that elections have consequences.
Now, back to matters at hand. Rick Berg screwed up. No question about that. Desperation often flows through political candidates, and they say dumb things. For Berg, this one was a doozy. But it says something about how he thinks, and how he might act as a Congressman. He’s desperate as a candidate right now to throw out big ideas. He’s also smart enough to try to back off, as he did in a Grand Forks Herald submission this week: “I would consider national park resources only if there was a way to do so without entering the park, by using technology such as horizontal drilling to go under the park from well outside the park boundaries, and then only if it would in no way affect the park or view shed.”
But the thing is, Rick, there are some things you can’t control. The government doesn’t drill for oil. Private companies do. All the government does is lease the land and the minerals to the oil companies. There’s no way to know, when the leases are issued, where the oil company will put the well and the tanks, which way the sound will drift, where the road will go for the service vehicles, how far the smell of the natural gas will drift, how bright the flare will be, and a whole bunch of other things that could affect the quality of the park experience. How far can that horizontal pipe go? A mile? Two miles? How far is far enough? There’s just a lot you don’t know about the oil industry, and about western North Dakota, Rick. We can forgive your Red River Valley naivete about this part of your state. Except that you could be the Congressman for the whole state. You need to do your homework.
One thing is pretty sure. This dumb idea is going nowhere fast. There’s no need to panic. A friend of mine has already said this is the time she will lay down in front of a drilling rig. I hope that won’t be necessary. Another friend said recently, as we were canoeing through the Bad Lands, and rounded a bend in the Little Missouri River to encounter an oil well almost on the river bank, “If there was a God, He would have put the oil under Iowa.” Well, I’m not so sure. We DO kind of like the taxes the state is collecting. But Richland, Cass, Traill, Grand Forks and Pembina Counties might have been a nice place for it.