Significant Oil Spill near Tioga Puts Spotlight on State Regulators


CONTACT: Sean Arithson, 701-202-3488,

Theodora Bird Bear, 701-759-3413,

Significant Oil Spill near Tioga Puts Spotlight on State Regulators


Bismarck, ND—Dakota Resource Council released the following statement on the Tioga Oil Spill. DRC members and leaders are available for more comments and information.


The oil spill of at least 20,600 barrels of oil near Tioga, ND on September 29 is one of the largest oil spills on lands in the U.S. The oil has covered and seeped into cropland in Northwest North Dakota. The magnitude of this most recent oil spill combined with the slow response time of our state regulators opens the door to many questions.


First, why was the public not informed about such a significant oil spill until October 10? That is a long time since September 29, when the spill was reportedly discovered, to have kept the public in the dark about what was happening. Second, from all accounts in the media thus far, state officials and company spokespeople have said that the spill has not caused any adverse damages to the environment. This defies logic and common sense. Productive agricultural land – seven football fields in size – is covered in oil and the official response is no environmental damage?


North Dakota state government’s handling of this major oil spill adds to the growing evidence that our state government is not doing its job of regulating the development of our immense oil resources in a manner that both develops oil and gas and protects the health, safety and livelihoods of North Dakotans. Time after time in less dramatic ways current state officials have not enforced laws and regulations or opposed improvements that would have protected landowners. Calls to state agencies by landowners have often left North Dakota farmers and ranchers with the clear impression that their needs and concerns were collateral damage in this big Bakken event in western North Dakota.


This latest spill should put to rest the calls for fewer regulations. It is hard to imagine how fewer regulations would have prevented this spill, made it more transparent to the public, or sped up the cleanup. It also puts the spotlight on current state government claims that it is uniquely qualified to deal with energy development in our state.


At the very least, this latest spill calls for an open and honest public discussion of how our state is handling oil development. The lack of open, balanced government needs to change.