DRC Member, Don Nelson, responds to Forum Communications Editorial Board

Don Nelson 1

[colored_box color=green]DRC Member Don Nelson[/colored_box]

Past DRC Chair, Don Nelson, took the time to respond to both, the Grand Forks Herald and Fargo Forum editorials in late February.

Both letters are posted below.

GRAND FORKS HERALD LETTER RESPONSE:

A recent Herald editorial asked good questions about responsibility for the explosion of North Dakota oil in a West Virginia train derailment (“Resolve debate over conditioning vs. stabilization,” Page A4, Feb. 23).

They’re the same questions Dakota Resource Council members are asking.

Unfortunately, the Herald editorial took a puzzling sidestep with some dismissive comments about DRC.

To set the record straight, here’s who DRC is and how we came to our conclusions.

I am a rancher, mineral owner and businessman in the middle of western North Dakota’s oil boom. I’ve been a member of Dakota Resource Council for more than 25 years because it’s important to make sure that the lives and livelihoods of those who’ve spent generations building farms, ranches and a good life here are not destroyed while oil and coal are extracted and developed.

DRC is a community-based group that brings together my farm and ranch neighbors, small business people, workers and others around the state to work on natural resources, energy and agriculture issues. In recent years, DRC has added urban members in Grand Forks and other cities.

We make sure the voice of local common sense is heard.

DRC members understand that the issues facing us in North Dakota are not “all or nothing.” In other words, these issues don’t demand being in favor of everything the oil industry wants or being against fossil fuels. That is a false choice.

Unfortunately, during the past eight years of rapid oil development, state officials and the oil industry have viewed legitimate questions and concerns as unwelcome attacks on the oil industry. They’ve shown an amazingly thin skin.

Lynn Helms, the director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources, showed his attitude when called people impacted by oil development “collateral damage.”

Meanwhile, the daily spills of oil and hazardous waste, extreme wasting of gas through flaring, threats to landowners over pipeline easements, exploding trains of North Dakota oil and a host of crimes and other problems continue to be a new part of our daily life.

So far, six trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have exploded in North America, including one in Quebec that killed 47 people. The response of North Dakota officials began with Helms proclaiming the state should write a paper to refute the “myth” that North Dakota oil was overly explosive. Then a train carrying North Dakota oil exploded in Casselton, N.D., 20 miles from downtown Fargo.

Long-time denial finally gave way to reluctant regulation. In December, new rules went into effect that require oil be conditioned to 13.7 pounds per square inch before it is loaded on to trains carrying the crude out of state.

This was not much of an improvement, since most oil producers in the state already do that. The West Virginia explosion was pegged at 13.9 psi, almost identical to what North Dakota officials are calling good enough.

The oil that exploded in Quebec was at 9.3 psi, and safe standards are at less than 6 psi. Clearly, North Dakota still has a long way to go.

DRC testified at the Department of Mineral Resources hearing in September, pointing out that technology is available to stabilize the oil so it is much safer to transport by train. This would take the explosive gases out before the oil is loaded on the trains. Oil companies do that in Texas.

But, because that would add costs for the oil industry, North Dakota officials opted for a lesser standard.

Now, some state lawmakers are threatening to make matters worse by eroding surface owners’ rights by eminent domain to build pipelines. Again, they want others to do the sacrificing.

Instead, they should focus on safety, health and lessening the impact on other people’s livelihoods through the industry’s use of better technology, be that pipelines, trains or trucks.

The fact is, North Dakota officials are allowing an explosive product to be sent by train across the continent. Most people can see a pretty straight line between explosive cargo and cargo exploding. DRC pointed out the obvious when we stated that responsibility for the explosion of North Dakota oil in West Virginia was a direct line to Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the North Dakota officials who decided to not make North Dakota oil safe enough.

We believe public officials should be held accountable for their decisions.

 

FARGO FORUM LETTER RESPONSE:

The Forum editorial Feb. 20 about responsibility for the explosion of North Dakota oil in a West Virginia train derailment missed the mark on so many fronts.

Unlike The Forum, most people would understand that there is a straight line between explosive cargo and cargo exploding. Instead of addressing the problem, The Forum repeated off-the-wall name-calling. Sidestepping real safety questions, The Forum swallowed “all or nothing” thinking and attacked the messenger, in this case the local group Dakota Resource Council.

A good life

I am a rancher, mineral owner and businessman in the middle of western North Dakota’s oil boom. I’ve been a member of Dakota Resource Council for more than 25 years because it’s important to make sure that the lives and livelihoods of those who’ve spent generations building farms, ranches and a good life here are not destroyed while oil and coal are extracted and developed. DRC brings together my farm and ranch neighbors, small business people, workers and others around the state to work on natural resources, energy and agriculture issues. In recent years, DRC has added urban members in Fargo and other cities. We make sure the voice of local common sense is heard.

False choice

DRC members understand that the issues facing us in North Dakota are not “all or nothing” – being in favor of everything the oil industry wants or being against fossil fuels. That is a false choice. Unfortunately, during the past eight years of rapid oil development, state officials and the oil industry have viewed legitimate questions and concerns as unwelcome attacks on the oil industry. They’ve shown an amazingly thin skin. Lynn Helms, the director of the state’s Department of Mineral Resources, even called people impacted by oil development “collateral damage.”

Meanwhile, the daily spills of oil and hazardous waste, illegal dumping of radioactive waste, threats to landowners over pipeline easements, exploding trains of North Dakota oil, and a host of crime and other problems continue to be a new part of our daily life.

A ‘myth’?

So far, six trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have exploded in North America, including one in Quebec that killed 47 people. The response of North Dakota officials began with Helms proclaiming the state should do a study to refute the “myth” that North Dakota oil was overly explosive. Then, a train carrying North Dakota oil exploded in Casselton, 20 miles from downtown Fargo.

Denial gave way to reluctant regulation. In December, new rules went into effect that require oil be conditioned to 13.7 pounds per square inch before it is loaded onto trains carrying the crude out of state. This was not much of an improvement, since most oil producers in the state already do that. The West Virginia explosion was pegged at 13.9 psi, almost identical to what North Dakota officials are calling good enough. The oil that exploded in Quebec was at 9.3 psi and safe standards are at less than 6 psi. Obviously, North Dakota still has a long way to go.

Lesser ND standard

DRC provided testimony at the Department of Mineral Resources hearing in September pointing out that technology is available to stabilize the oil so it is much safer to transport by train. This would take the explosive gases out before it is loaded on the trains. Oil companies do that in Texas. But because that would add costs for the oil industry, North Dakota officials opted for a lesser standard.

Now, some state lawmakers are threatening to make matters worse by eroding surface owners’ rights by eminent domain to build pipelines. Again, they want others to do the sacrificing. Instead, they should focus on safety, health, and lessening the impact on other people’s livelihoods through the industry’s use of better technology, whether it is pipelines, trains or trucks.

Direct line

The fact is North Dakota officials are allowing an explosive product to be sent by train across the continent. DRC pointed out the obvious when we stated that responsibility for the explosion of North Dakota oil in West Virginia was a direct line to Gov. Jack Dalrymple and the North Dakota officials who made the decision to let it happen. We believe public officials should be held accountable for their decisions.

Nelson is a rancher and past chairman, Dakota Resource Council.

 

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