Friday, January 18, 2013

A ‘mountain’ of a debate


A ‘mountain’ of a debate

Posted on 18 January 2013 by Bryce Martin
A two-mile stretch of North Dakota land will mean the difference between oil drilling and disrupting the slopes of the Killdeer Mountains for one global oil company.
Hess Corp., a Texas-based oil corporation, is making plans to drill on top of Killdeer Mountains. They have proposed drilling four additional wells on the Killdeer Mountains. They already have received permits and are in the process of now applying for four more to drill a total of eight wells.
Hess Corp., a Texas-based oil corporation, is making plans to drill on top of Killdeer Mountains. They have proposed drilling four additional wells on the Killdeer Mountains. They already have received permits and are in the process of now applying for four more to drill a total of eight wells.
By BRYCE MARTIN
Herald Editor
Posted Jan. 18, 2013
A two-mile stretch of North Dakota land will mean the difference between oil drilling and disrupting the slopes of the Killdeer Mountains for one global oil company.
Hess Corp., a Texas-based oil corporation, already maintains several oil well sites within Dunn County and has proposed drilling four additional wells on the Killdeer Mountains. They already have received permits and are in the process of now applying for four more to drill a total of eight wells.
A citizen action group known as the Killdeer Mountain Alliance (KMA), formed to protect the mountains from industrial development, urged both Hess and the state of North Dakota to relocate the drill site to two miles south of the mountain.
The decision now rests in the hands of the North Dakota Industrial Commission (NDIC).
Rob and Mary Sand are two local landowners and members of the KMA, expressing their strong concern over possible placement of Hess’s wells.
“This isn’t near (the mountains), this is on the mountains,” Rob Sand said.
Hess’s plans call for the wells to be placed along the south side of the Killdeer Mountains, within a public section of the slope that is designated as a school section. Two sections of every township in North Dakota are considered state school land and earmarked for funding public education. Monies from minerals discovered would be awarded to the state for education.
If permitted to begin drilling, Hess’s construction would span nearly three acres of land, with all topsoil being removed, the area leveled and an infrastructure consisting of access roads to be constructed.
Continental Resources Inc., an Oklahoma-based company, has leases directly east of where Hess maintains several leases. They proposed drilling on the mountains in the past, but moved farther away off the mountains when urged by residents.
“If (Hess) were to drill where they propose, it puts them right on top of archeology,” Rob said. “It’s a hunting area, it’s a very scenic area and it’s public land.”
Archeologists claimed there are findings of historical and cultural significance around the proposed dig site that they want to further explore and evaluate. The area is also one part of the mountain that has public access.
“Almost anywhere in the Killdeer Mountains, if you come to a gopher hole and you kick the soil, you’re going to come across some sort of artifact,” Mary Sand said. “It is one of the richest archeological sites. Once they start messing with the surface, that is lost.”
As landowners and others come forward to voice opposition to Hess’s proposed dig, the matter heads to the NDIC for approval.
“This is one place where the public can speak up,” Rob said. “When it’s on private land, there’s not a whole lot we can say.”
On state lands in North Dakota, oil companies need only the approval of the Oil and Gas Division of the NDIC for site location. Unlike decisions related to federal lands, the NDIC is not obligated to protect archaeological and historical artifacts if such protection impedes financial gain for the state.
“In some cases, however, state officials have worked with industry to relocate wells on lands where there are concerns about wildlife habitat or archaeological artifacts,” Rob said. “We hope that will be the case here.”
The NDIC is scheduled to meet Jan. 24 at the North Dakota State Capital building to make a decision regarding Hess’s permits to drill at that location. The final decision ultimately is up to the state.
“They really need to be more considerate of what the public interest is,” Rob said.
Consensus among landowners in the area remains clear – drilling on the mountains is unacceptable. A location the KMA suggested for Hess to relocate is two miles south, combining the unit they’re presently applying for and the unit directly below them, which is also under their ownership.
“It’s not going to change the financial gain – they’re still able to access those minerals,” he said. “We’re just trying to change the location. Apparently it’s easier to drill two miles than it is four miles.”
A spokesperson for Hess acknowledged the situation in the Killdeer Mountains and offered a written statement to the Herald.
“We seek to minimize our impact on the environment in all aspects of our operations in North Dakota,” a company spokesperson said. “We are aware of the concerns and have made every attempt to address the issues raised with regard to our drilling program. We design every well taking into the specific environmental considerations for that location. In this case, we have also worked closely with the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands, who is the surface owner and a major mineral owner under the well in question.
“Hess Corp. is committed to meeting the highest standards of corporate citizenship by … safeguarding the environment and making a positive impact on the communities in which we do business.”
Regardless of the situation, Rob said their intention is not to make the oil companies the “bad guy.”
“They’re just trying to follow their standard practices, and since we know it’s possible to drill from a farther distance, we’re asking that the state change the permit and the location,” he said.
“It’s both the state and Hess that we’re appealing to.”
The Sands plan to attend the upcoming open meeting in Bismarck and eagerly await a decision over their beloved mountains.
“It is an area that we think is a treasure – the whole mountain is, but that particular area is public land and that’s why we’re feeling like we should be able to say something.”
http://www.dunncountyextra.com/661/