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  • Letter: McFeely should go westDecember 29, 2015

    For a guy with no ties to western North Dakota, Mike McFeely of The Forum and WDAY AM radio sure has a lot of opinion about it (column, Dec. 17). While that’s the nature of being a political talking head, he can at least get his facts straight.

    The North Dakota Industrial Commission has shown excellent leadership over nearly a decade of North Dakota’s oil boom. You might not see it every day in our Internet-driven news cycle, but here are a few big issues the commission has tackled in the quiet, proficient manner that doesn’t cripple producers.

    You know, the attitude we want in regulators no matter the industry.

    1. Flaring: When the Bakken sprung up, there was little pipeline infrastructure to take gas to market. The NDIC recognized the problem and demanded the industry show progress. Result: Flaring has fallen 60 percent in four years.

    2. Stabilization: Remember when trains ran the news cycle? The NDIC responded by requiring volatile gases to be removed from crude transported by rail. Result: The rails through our communities are safer.

    3. Well casing: North Dakota has adopted the strictest well casing practices in the country. At any point in a well’s life, at least four, and often more, layers of cement and steel protect groundwater. Result: Not one instance of impacted groundwater.

    4. Spacing and setbacks: The NDIC implemented stringent spacing and setback rules for state lands and parks. Result: McFeely can ride a horse on trails if he ever actually goes out to western North Dakota.

    These are only a few of the ways the NDIC has shown its quiet leadership. Before you think the oil industry didn’t feel any pain in all of this, consider that it pays around $1 per barrel for stabilization (a lofty amount with a wellhead price of $25), invested more than  $3 billion in pipeline and gas processing infrastructure and facilities, and has lost millions due to setbacks that prevent pipes from reaching all the oil in these areas.

    McFeely might want EPA-style government in North Dakota, but that’s no good for this industry, the small businesses that rely on it (like the one I work for), or other industries, like agriculture and construction, that inevitably become the next victims of heavy regulation.

    As printed in the Fargo Forum December 27, 2015.