Who’s running the state?

John Heiser, Grassy Butte

If what is going on in both the executive and legislative branches of our state government with regard to the rampant oil development in western North Dakota wasn’t so outrageous, it might be considered amusing. It is becoming more clear by the day that Big Oil is running our fair state, meaning their rafts of well-heeled lobbyists are having their way across the spectrum of state government.

On the legislative side, that our elected representatives are even considering lowering taxes on oil companies is an outrage at a time when gasoline and diesel prices are soaring. I’d go so far as to say that those taxes ought to be increased if for no other reason than to dampen the disproportionate impacts associated with a completely crazed oil boom.

Further, this Legislature needs to enact firm legislation which essentially stops the ridiculous wasting of the millions of cubic feet of natural gas being flared every day, enough to heat 500,000 American homes it is commonly said. How can it be that the nationwide percentage of flared gas is 1 to 3 percent, and ours is 29 percent or more? No wonder, then, that the state politicians and oil industry people are not bragging that North Dakota has the very dubious distinction of being No. 1in the nation for flaring (wasting) of natural gas. That deliberate waste of a valuable natural resource is costing royalty owners and state government millions of dollars of income and revenue. By now I’d guess as well that most North Dakotans have also seen the night sky maps of earth which show northwestern North Dakota lit up like the cities of Denver or Minneapolis this occurring in a state which used to be famous for its thrifty homesteader values?!

Of course the state’s executive branch could choose to enforce existing rules and regulations regarding all aspects of oil & gas development, instead of granting endless exemptions so that oil companies can continue to wreak havoc with the communities and landscapes of western North Dakota. Perhaps the state could actually enforce statutes like the section of N.D. Century Code (38-08-03) which says, without exception, that “Waste of oil and gas is prohibited.” Maybe, too, the executive branch could halt its relentless quest to stifle any and all dissent within the ranks of state government so that voices of concern therein could be heard loud and clear over the din of oil development out west, and over the jingle of oil lobbyist money all around Bismarck.

And with Big Oil pretty much running the show in Bismarck, I’d also like to know who exactly is representing native western North Dakotans, the majority of whom are more than a little displeased with the oil-caused chaos which envelopes us day and night.

Imagine, if you will, visionary leadership which shows some real concern over the mess the oil industry is creating all over western North Dakota, and in our state government.