Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oil Drilling Near Killdeer Mountains

Oil Drilling Near Killdeer Mountains | Video
Jennifer Joas | 1/24/2013 

More and more oil wells keep popping up across the North Dakota landscape. But some landowners say the state should be protecting its most sacred areas, such as the Killdeer Mountains. They expressed their concerns to the Industrial Commission, but there may not be a solution.

It started nearly three months ago, when Hess first presented its case for putting a spacing unit near the Killdeer Mountains and the Killdeer Battlefield. Since then, landowners and alliance groups have expressed concern over drilling in that area.

"What we are asking you is to really look at where you do have powerful influence, and that is on the lands controlled by the state. And especially with this area which is so precious," said Sand.

Landowners say the spacing unit is too close to their homes, wildlife habitat and cultural artifacts. They would prefer if Hess moved it farther away, and drilled a longer distance. But the state says that is just not possible.

"The technology simply does not exist. It has not ever been done. There is no technology to drill four mile long laterals and to keep them in zone and to produce the wells," said Lynn Helms, Department of Mineral Resources Director. 

Helms says he looked into six other alternatives but he feels the one being proposed has the least impact to wildlife and people. He says if the state decides to do nothing, more than three million barrels of oil will be wasted, which equals about $250 million. But landowners say leaving the oil untouched for the time being is not wasting it.

"The oil is not going anywhere. I do not know why we have to rush to put wells down and extract. Why can we not wait 40, 50 years for the technology to improve?" said Dakota Goodhouse.

"What is the rush? The rush means quick decisions, unplanned decisions and unplanned impacts," said Theodora Birdbear.

"Do we have a price on the impact on tourism? Do we have a price on the impact on scientific research, and all the species you`ll be impacting? I do not see that ever in a budget anywhere. But I always see the cost of oil," said Anne Marguerite.

Helms also suggested placing stipulations on the case to minimize impacts to the roads, the artifacts and to provide better oversight by the State Historical Society.

The Industrial Commission voted to approve the recommended order, and added another stipulation for Hess to do everything possible to reduce flaring.