A group of concerned Dunn County residents have joined forces with other state-wide interests to form a coalition opposing proposed drilling on public land near the Killdeer Mountains.
Aerial view of Killdeer Mountain.
Posted December 28, 2012
BY JENNIFER KOCHER
The group, tentatively called the “Killdeer Mountain Alliance,” will stand together on Jan. 17, 2013, with other concerned citizens, including representatives from local tribes, to hear the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s (NDIC) final decision regarding Hess Corporation’s request to drill up to eight wells on four 1,280-acre spaced units on public school land on the SWSE of Section 25 and 36, T146N and R97W.
The drilling would take place near the 115 square mile circumference of the famed Battle of Killdeer Mountain, in which General Sully’s 3,000 troops defeated a faction of Sioux Indians, leaving between 100 and 150 casualties.
The group’s mission is not to stop the drilling in the area but rather to move it onto the tracts of land in the area that do not pose significant risks to the integrity of the land.
Local ranchers Loren and Ross Jepson originally contested the drilling of these wells at an NDIC hearing on Oct. 24. At this time, the Jepsons raised concerns about the potential overturning of historical artifacts on the land at the proposed drilling sites. They also raised questions about the safety risks posed by an increase in traffic.
“Our grandchildren wait on that corner for the school bus,” said Lori Jepson, wife of Loren. “There are several blind curves in the road and it’s a dangerous spot to see increased truck traffic.”
Because the land in question is owned by the state, as opposed to being federal land, there is no requirement for a complete archeological survey prior to drilling. Given the prospective marring of historically significant land, the state Historical Society has come out against drilling in the area.
Others, such as Anne Marguerite Coyle, also plan to attend the Jan. 14 hearing in opposition of the current proposed drilling on this state land.
Coyle, an associate professor at Jamestown College, warns against the irreversible long-terms effects of drilling in the area.
“This is a living culture. Many people still return to these sacred lands for healing and to pay reverence,” said Coyle. “This isn’t just about protecting a chunk of Civil War history; rather, it’s about protecting a valuable piece of our culture, both past and present.”
Lori Jepson concurs. Although state law requires that all drilling cease upon the discovery of historical artifacts, there is no provision in place to protect against the potential of discovery. Once the site has been overturned, there’s no going back.
“It’s important that we understand that it’s not reversible. It’s the responsibility of the state to protect our best interests,” Jepson said.
Others, such as neighbor Rob Sand, have a personal connection to the land. Sand’s parents homesteaded in the region and he and his siblings had the advantage of growing up in a pristine area rich with fond memories.
“Many of us out here feel a responsibility to protect the land,” Sand said.
The effort to preserve this area from proposed drilling also raises questions about the oil well permit process itself. According to Lori Jepson, their family was not even aware of four of the proposed drilling areas near their home until they noticed the areas had been staked, at which point they approached the NDIC to protest the location.
“We had to hire a lawyer simply for advice on how to protest,” Jepson said. “The oil companies have a team of expert witnesses and we were not aware that we needed them to voice our objections and have them taken seriously.”
“It might be too late for us,” Jepson said. “But it’s important that others know what they need to do if they find themselves in the same boat.”
A representative from the NDIC was not available for comment. The case is scheduled to go before the commission in Bismarck on Jan. 17, 2013, and the public is invited to attend.