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.
You may have seen Harold Hamm and his wife are going through a nasty divorce.
A contentious divorce involving an Oklahoma oil baron could potentially lead to a multibillion-dollar settlement for his estranged wife that would be the biggest in U.S. history.
Harold Hamm, 67, the chief executive of Continental Resources, is in the midst of divorce proceedings with his second wife, former Continental Resources executive Sue Ann Hamm. After filing for divorce on May 19, 2012, she has claimed in court documents that her husband was unfaithful during their marriage. He has acknowledged that the couple separated back in 2005, and the two have lived separate lives ever since.
Hamm is worth an estimated $11.3 billion and was No. 35 on last year’s list of the 50 richest Americans put out by Forbes. The potential settlement his wife could receive may exceed the more than $1.7 billion paid out in 1999 to Anna Murdoch, the ex-wife of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, depending on whether or not there was a prenuptial agreement.
Well, you've probably read that Harold Hamm bought North Dakota. That being the case, there are all kinds of complicated legal issues that are going to have to be sorted out in the Hamm divorce case. Now, admittedly, I don't know Oklahoma law, but if North Dakota law applied, I know the State of North Dakota would be part of the marital estate. The Hamms would have to divide up the State of North Dakota. This could get tricky. For example, there are three members of the State Industrial Commission: Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stehnjem and Doug Goehring. You can't really split those three in half, I think. So how will they divide up those guys? It's complicated since they are part of the property that needs to be divided, but they are also (arguably) people. So is there a hybrid Ruff-Fischer / Best Interests analysis that will happen? The courts will have to sort that out.
And how will the Hamms divide the physical assets? Will Harold take the Capitol Building and his wife Sue Ann take the WSI building, Dixie, the old Supreme Court building and the Highway Department building? That hardly seems fair. Maybe Harold will get the Senate and Sue Ann will get the House. Harold gets the Governor's office (as part of the division of the Industrial Commission) and Sue Ann gets Wayne Stenehjem, Doug Goehring and the Supreme Court. That doesn't seem fair either. Maybe Harold should ask for John Hoeven and a first round pick in the 2014 draft election, too. Let Sue Ann take Kevin Cramer. He can't pitch, can't catch and has a pathetic batting average. He's horrible.
Who gets the state highways and state parks? Who gets the state colleges and universities? Will they be dividing up the budget surplus? Who gets the Highway Patrol? Who gets the National Guard? Who gets the State Library? There are a lot of complicated family law issues that will be sorted out in the Hamm divorce.
This isn't just a big case for the Hamms; it's a huge case for the people of North Dakota.
Pay attention to this divorce, folks. It's really important.
If you've been reading NorthDecoder a little while you know that a large part of what this website is about is exposing North Dakota's absurdly lazy, right-leaning and corrupt traditional media for what it is. The Fargo Forum endorses all Republicans in 2012. The Bismarck Tribune's editors are two chicken to name the names of radical Republicans and are humiliated into apologizing when they do. KFYR TV shuts down a reporters' investigation because some Republican big-shot calls the station manager and asks that the story be suppressed. All these things happen, and you don't know about it because the media -- obviously -- isn't going to cover it. So we do it.
In 2011 a new monthly newspaper popped up in Bismarck. It was called the "Great Plains Examiner" (I've heard they're workign on changing their name to "Dakota Beacon: The Sequel"). For nearly a full year the Examiner looked like North Dakota's capitol city might have a real, live investigative journalist who might have the guts to dig into Republican corruption and scandal like a real newspaper might do. But then that newspaper got sold to the former Chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, Gary Emineth. If you've seen either of their post-take-over editions, you know my prediction was correct: it is no longer worth reading because it is little more than a right-wing propaganda tool that carefully tries to get just barely enough content submitted by gullible progressives so they can whine, "We're trying to be balanced!"
Well... for those of you who are tired of North Dakota's media and want to do something about it... Someone is trying to do something about it. A convention is taking place this Saturday (March 23, 2013) at the Jamestown Civic Center from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. It's being sponsored by NDFreePress.org and the People's Press Project. You can get all the details about the convention by clicking here. Here's a fairly good summary from that website:
We know many of you have been frustrated time and time again with the news coverage throughout North Dakota and have longed for more fair, impartial, and independent news media.
You are invited to be part of the solution in creating a media vehicle that is for the people and by the people. Independent free press groups will convene at the Jamestown Civic Center on March 23 to explore working relationships and to pave the way for Independent Media to grow and prosper in North Dakota.
Individuals and groups are working together to expand the ND Free Press Movement and want to bring community members together to create a working vision to create an effective avenue for independent news in ND and the region. We are seeking people who may be interested in participating in the convention. We are looking for people who want to engage in any capacity; whether financial supporters, writers, editors, etc. This will be community news for the community and BY the community.
The Independent Media Convention will take place on Saturday, March 23 from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM at the Jamestown Civic Center located at 212 3rd Ave NE Jamestown, ND
There appears to be a nominal cost (probably to cover the cost of the room), though it also appears they've got some kind of system of waiving the cost for "hardship" cases.
I'm not involved with this effort at all. I got a call last week and was invited to attend. I'm going to try to get there on Saturday and will sit in the back of the room (like I do) and try to better understand what this is all about. Because I don't really know much about it, I'm not endorsing it or suggesting that I will become involved with it. (I'm spread pretty thin already.) Because it looks interesting, I just figured I'd help spread the word.
So... if you're looking for something to do on Saturday, can get to Jamestown (carpooling options appear to be available, too) and are interested in seeing whether this might be
[Cross-posted, with permission, from The Prairie Blog.Jim's other story is a huge deal because Dalrymple, Stenehjem and Goehring are about to rubber-stamp approval of a huge well pad being constructed immediately next to one of North Dakota's few national historic sites, the Elkhorn Ranch.]
Here’s a correction and a little more information on what I wrote yesterday about the XTO application to drill for oil beside the Elkhorn Ranch.
The hearing on XTO’s application is in front of the Oil and Gas Division of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, not the full Industrial Commission itself. That means the oil company will be asking Lynn Helms for a drilling permit. Gee, I wonder how that will turn out.
I don’t know for sure if Helms’ decision is final, or if his bosses, Jack Dalrymple, Doug Goehring and Wayne Stenehjem have to sign off on it later, at a full Industrial Commission meeting. I’ll find that out Monday when the Capitol is open for business, and I can call and get an answer, unless someone reading this already knows that, and can put the answer in the comments section below, or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll put the information here.
The Oil and Gas Division is not housed in the Capitol Building, as I said yesterday. It is in a fancy new office building up in North Bismarck. The address is 1000 East Calgary Avenue. The easiest way to explain where it’s at is, go west of Ruby Tuesday Restaurant on Calgary. You can also get there from the west by going North on Washington to Calgary and heading east. The building is kind of tucked into a semi-residential area and a little bit hard to find.
I’m pointing this out because a friend of mine who knows about this stuff says this could end up being the subject of a lawsuit if XTO gets the permit, a suit between the state and federal government, or a civil suit filed by people who have an interest in protecting Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If that is the case, it is important, this friend says, that there be plenty of testimony put into the record at any hearing held by the Oil and Gas Division or the Industrial Commission. Testimony about why this permit should not be issued. Or testimony about other ways of getting the oil out—with horizontal drilling, for example—by siting any wells a longer distance from the Park. Technology exists to do that, of course.
We all know that mineral ownership supersedes surface ownership, and the lessee has a right to get the oil out from under the surface. The question here, it seems, is “Is it right to drill oil wells right on the boundary of a National Park?” Especially a National Park which was the home of Theodore Roosevelt, our great conservation president.
I hope a big crowd turns out for the 9 a.m. hearing March 28.
There’s another interesting aspect to this, which was pointed out in comments I received on yesterday’s blog post. One of the commenters said that Jack Dalrymple owns stock in Exxon Mobil, which is the parent company of XTO, the company who wants to drill for oil beside the Elkhorn. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I have no reason to doubt the commenter’s knowledge of such a fact. If it is true, it would seem that a vote by Dalrymple to grant a permit to drill for oil would be a gross conflict of interest. And if it’s so, Dalrymple is already guilty, because XTO has already received lots of drilling permits from the North Dakota Industrial Commission. Again, I’m not sure of the legalities here, but some attorney can probably help clear it up. It only is a problem in a state like North Dakota when you have a really, really rich Governor. That describes Dalrymple. Rich people buy stock in a lot of companies. And Oil companies, these days, seem like a good bet. Every time a company like XTO drills a well, oil starts flowing, profits go up, and stockholders benefit.
So I suppose somebody should ask Dalrymple if he does own stock in Exxon Mobil, and any other oil companies doing business in North Dakota. That would begin to explain his enthusiasm for the oil industry. Of course, as Governor of our state, he wants the oil companies to do well, so they pay their taxes to help state government. But if he’s driven by more than that—wanting the oil companies to do well so they pay him hefty dividends—then he loses some of his objectivity. As Governor, he’s also charged with the responsibility of making sure the oil companies do things right, and of protecting the interests of the people of North Dakota, which means being concerned about our air, water, land, wildlife, and quality of life. As a stockholder, he says “screw those things, just make my dividend checks as big as possible.” Dalrymple did, incidentally, take a couple of campaign donations from Exxon Mobil, at least $2,600 that I’ve been able to spot on the Secretary of State’s website. Some of their executives may have added to that total, but it’s hard to track them unless you know who works for the company.
Anyway, I’ll put more here about the process of XTO getting a permit to put four oil wells beside Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin site as soon as I get more information. For now, let’s tell all of our friends to show up at 1000 East Calgary Avenue at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 28. Just west of Ruby Tuesday’s. We can all stop there for lunch after it’s over.
Okay, next crisis. There seems to be one every day for people like us who are concerned about the impact the oil industry is having on western North Dakota. Negative impact, that is. There are lots of positive impacts. I take note of those, and am grateful, like every other North Dakotan. It’s the negative impacts I worry about, and write about here.
Late last year, you read in the papers and saw on TV the stories about the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which is the three state officials who approve permits to drill for oil in North Dakota, granting permission for oil companies to drill for oil in Little Missouri State Park. A few people raised a ruckus, but the drilling is proceeding.
Earlier this year, you read about a group of Dunn County citizens who were concerned about the Industrial Commission granting a permit to drill for oil in the Killdeer Mountains. The citizens attended the Industrial Commission hearing and had their say. Their say was, “this is a bad place to drill for oil.” The Industrial Commission thanked them for their input and said they would take the permit application under advisement and make a decision sometime in the future. The Dunn County citizens got in their cars and headed home for supper. Before they had gotten past new Salem, the Industrial Commission brought the matter back up and voted to approve the permit. The Dunn County citizens read about it in the paper the next morning. Everyone I talked to the next day agreed it was one of the most chickenshit things state officials in North Dakota had done in a long, long time, maybe ever. For the record, the three men who did that are named Jack Dalrymple, Wayne Stenehjem and Douglas Goehring.
Well, there’s going to be another Industrial Commission hearing on Thursday, March 28, at 9 a.m., at the North Dakota Capitol, at which time they are going to be asked for a drilling permit for another really bad place to drill for oil. This time, it is right beside the Elkhorn Ranch Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And I mean RIGHT BESIDE. I mean, when you drive your car down the gravel road into the Elkhorn Ranch, and pull into the little parking lot, and up to the gate to the walking trail down to Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin site, and get out of your car, there’s going to be an oil well beside the passenger side door of your car. RIGHT THERE. If the Industrial Commission grants the permit. No kidding.
If you look at the docket for the hearing on March 28, you’ll find, buried way down near the end, on page 22 of a 24 page document, Case No. 19996. It reads “Application of XTO Energy Inc. for an order authorizing the drilling, completing and producing of a total of four wells on an existing 1280-acre spacing unit described as Sections 5 and 6, T. 143 N., R. 102W., Morgan Draw-Bakken Pool, Billing County, ND . . .”
Luckily for us, someone actually reads all 24 pages of these dockets, looking for danger signals like this one. In this case, that someone happened to be an employee of the National Park Service, who thought to himself or herself, I don’t know which, “Hmmm, that description looks familiar. I know where that’s at.” The National Park Service is the federal agency which manages Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn cabin site. Which just happens to be located in . . .you guessed it . . . Section 5, T. 143N., R. 102W, Billings County, ND.
That sharp-eyed employee, in a recent visit to the Elkhorn Ranch site, discovered that, long before the Industrial Commission has made its decision on whether or not to approve the drilling permit, XTO Energy has already been to the site and put stakes in the ground for a proposed oil well on U.S. Forest Service land directly adjacent to the Elkhorn Ranch, very close to the small parking lot.
I’m attaching a map to this story which shows the location of the Elkhorn Ranch.
The two sections being discussed for drilling by XTO are outlined by me in red. The sections shaded green on this map are owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Purple is National Park Service. Blue is the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. White is privately owned land. As you can see, the U.S. Forest Service owns almost all of Sections 5 and 6, except for just a little bit of the upper right hand corner of the section. XTO holds the mineral leases on those two sections, for which they paid a good deal of money. Now they’ve decided it is time to get their money back—and then some—by drilling four oil wells there. The Elkhorn Ranch site, which is only 70 or 80 acres, actually has little pieces of four different sections. The little piece in section 5 is where the parking lot is. If you look carefully, you can see the red-dotted line coming in from the west right up to the edge of the purple. That’s the gravel road to the parking lot. I haven’t been out there yet to see the stakes, but the Park Service employee says they are right there by that road, right close to the parking lot.
If you’ve ever driven in on that road to the Elkhorn site, you know that sections 5 and 6, through which the road passes, are very rugged, full of hills and gullies. Real Bad Lands. But just before you get to the Elkhorn site, you come down a big hill and there’s a nice flat area as you approach the parking lot, probably 30 or 40 acres. Just big enough for a pad holding four oil wells, a bunch of tanks and all the other apparatus that goes with an oil well site. There are not many other places in those two sections –in fact, I don’t think there are any—that would be suitable for an oil well pad. I’m going to go out there and look for myself next week.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail, one of the most famous hiking and bicycling trails in America, also runs throughout the length of these two sections, so I would guess the Forest Service would be concerned about the well site as well. It’s the borken red line running through the two sections.
In fact, a friend of mine at the Park Service said the two agencies have talked about this, and the Forest Service says not to get too excited because nothing has been approved yet. Huh. Never mind that the stakes are in the ground for a well site. And with the permit application moving forward, it is obvious XTO is going to drill somewhere in those two sections, IMMEDIATELY ADJACENT TO THE ELKHORN RANCH. If the Industrial Commission gives them a permit. IF.
There’s another interesting angle at work here as well. The North Dakota Parks Department manages the land on the North and South sides of the Elkhorn. One would think that agency would be concerned about this, and be talking to the boss over in the Capitol about it. Seems to me the Industrial Commission would surely want to know how the state’s own Parks Department feels about this. At least in most states they would.
This isn’t the only threat to the Elkhorn, of course. You’ve already read here about the proposed gravel pit just across the river, and the proposed bridge cross the Little Missouriright beside the Elkhorn. From what I can tell, the preferred location for the bridge would be about 500 yards from where the stakes for the new oil well are. Well, isn’t that conveeeeeeenient, as the Church Lady used to say.
This is not just a North Dakota issue. National organizations like the Theodore Roosevelt Association and the Boone and Crocket Club have been involved in the resistance effort on the gravel pit and the bridge. I hope they will get involved on this one as well.
My friends in the Park Service are using words like “imminent threat ” and “extremely serious.” Rightfully so. Four oil wells this close to one of the nation’s most revered conservation spots is pretty much unthinkable. Anywhere but North Dakota. Here, they’re thinking about it.
Please put the date on your calendar. Please come and let your state officials know this is a really bad idea. But don’t leave early.
There is an AP story about the 2013 North Dakota Moose and Elk License Proclamation on the Grand Forks Herald’s website today that is very confusing to me. The story is basically a short version of the press release sent out by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department this past Monday. It says that there will be just 111 moose licenses available in North Dakota this year, 32 fewer than last year.
The story says “Game and Fish Department officials say the drop in moose tags is due in part to a downward population trend in the northeastern part of the state.”
The GFD press release quotes Randy Kreil, Game and Fish Department wildlife chief, saying “a downward population trend in the northeastern portion of the state is of great concern. Unit M1C will remain closed, and in addition, unit M4, which encompasses the Turtle Mountains, is also closed this year.”
Well, what the press release doesn’t say is that Unit M1C has been closed for at least four years (maybe longer—I couldn’t find the 2009 proclamation, but subsequent ones show the unit was closed in 2010 and has not re-opened).
What the press release also doesn’t say is that the Department has only been issuing seven tags in Unit M4 the last three years, so the drop in licenses in that unit (primarily the Turtle Mountains) only accounts for 7 of the 32 fewer tags being issued this year. What about the other 25?
Let’s review the Moose Proclamation for the past four years.
In 2010, there were a total of 173 moose tags issued. Of those, more than half, 90 of them, were in Units M10 and M11, an area basically described as everything in Northwest North Dakota north of Lake Sakakawea and west of U.S. Highway 83. You can see the map hereby scrolling down to the bottom of the proclamation. Looks a lot like the map of the Bakken Oil Field, doesn’t it?
In 2011, the Department issued 160 tags, a drop of 13. The total for Units M10 and M11 that year was 77, a drop of–you guessed it–13. All the other units remained the same as the previous year.
In 2012, the total number of tags was 143, a drop of 17. That year, the Department merged Unit M11 into Unit M10, (you can see the map here, again if you scroll all the way down to the bottom) and even made it larger by extending the southern boundary down to Highway 200, and they issued a total of 70 tags for the new unit, M10. That’s 7 fewer than the previous year. The other drop (10) was in Unit M8, east of the Turtle Mountains.
This year, the number of total tags is down to 111, 32 less than last year. That’s a huge drop, almost 25 per cent, in just one year. Of that number, 50 are in Unit M10, which is 20 fewer than last year. (Here’s the map—it’s basically the same as the 2012 version.) That’s a drop in that unit of more than 25 per cent in one year.
To review, then:
The total number of moose tags issued in North Dakota has dropped from 173 to 111 since 2010, a drop of 36 per cent over four years, and the total number of tags in Unit M10—which just happens to be almost the exact land area as the Bakken Oil Formation—has dropped from 90 to 50—almost in half, in the same period of time.
And if you go back and look at the press release that has accompanied the proclamation each of those years, you will find pretty much the same statement from Game and Fish: “Game and Fish Department officials say the drop in moose tags is due in part to a downward population trend in the northeastern part of the state.”
You could look it up. You could go back and Google and find all those press releases. Or you could just trust me. Because I did it.
Do they think we’re stupid? Don’t they think that someone like me might actually do the math?
Then there’s this: If you listen to Randy Kreil on this week’s Game and Fish Dept.webcast, he says, about 3 minutes into the webcast, the drop in moose licenses is “primarily in the north and west part of the state.”
He said that the same day as the press release went out, which said, as I quoted it earlier, “Randy Kreil, Game and Fish Department wildlife chief, said a downward population trend in the northeastern portion of the state is of great concern. Unit M1C will remain closed, and in addition, unit M4, which encompasses the Turtle Mountains, is also closed this year.” Here’s the whole press release. Do you think maybe they ought to have “great concern” about the moose population in the Oil Patch?
And why two different, conflicting stories on the same day? Could it possibly be that Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand and Jack Dalrymple, or his chief of staff, Ron Rauschenberger, have to approve the press releases before they go out, but they just weren’t in the room when Randy made the video with Game and Fish PR flack Tom Jensen? Do ya suppose?
Dammit, Randy Kreil is a good guy. As long as I’ve known him, he’s been a straight shooter. But there’s just something going on at Game and Fish that we simply cannot tolerate any more. They are supposed to be on OUR side.
Yes, you read that right: there are two sides now. There’s the oil industry and its lackeys—Jack Dalrymple, Lynn Helms, and, I fear now, Terry Steinwand, who, you will recall, sat on an unfavorable report done by his own scientists for almost a year because his bosses didn’t want us to read bad news about how the oil industry is impacting our wildlife—and then there are the rest of us North Dakotans, who are just watching our way of life disappear, and we’re helpless to do anything about it, because those who are supposed to be looking out for the good of the state and its people are on the wrong side.
That 2010 report, you will recall, dealt mostly with mule deer, elk, and several other species, but conveniently left out the industry’s impact on moose. Well, I’m no scientist, but the simple Google research I just did this morning paints a pretty clear picture of a big problem with our moose population.
And speaking of elk, the next to last sentence in the AP story this morning reads like this: “The cutback in the number of elk licenses continues a reduction program that began in 2010 in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. “
Would somebody explain to me what that sentence even means?
Earlier this week I wrote about the problem with Bighorn Sheep being run down by oil trucks. I hadn’t really intended for this to become a hunting blog, but if I get time one of these days, I’m going to take a look at elk licenses. Anyone want to guess what I’m going to find?