Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Industrial Commission upholds Killdeer Mountain drilling decision

Published February 21, 2013, 12:00 AM

Industrial Commission upholds Killdeer Mountain drilling decision

BISMARCK — In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the North Dakota Industrial Commission voted to uphold a recent decision allowing oil drilling in an area in Dunn County near Killdeer Mountain.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the North Dakota Industrial Commission voted to uphold a recent decision allowing oil drilling in an area in Dunn County near Killdeer Mountain.
The IC — comprised of North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring — voted last month to approve a series of well pad sites to be developed by Hess Corp. Dunn County resident Loren Jepson and his legal counsel, Tom Gehrz of Mackoff Kellogg in Dickinson, filed an appeal of the January IC decision.
Jepson, who was not present at Wednesday’s monthly IC meeting at the State Capitol, had requested the commission take a second look at its decision based on several factors, including the presentation of incorrect information by Director of Mineral Resources Lynn Helms’ office.
“We were asked to reconsider order 20920 and the response is a recommendation to deny that request for reconsideration,” Helms told the commission before its vote. “The grounds that the appeal was brought on don’t meet the legal test for a reconsideration.”
Jepson and other Killdeer Mountain drilling opponents had requested that Hess drill in a different area near the pad sites in question, although Helms said such a move would create new mineral rights issues for landowners.
The land in question could hold as much as 3.5 millions barrels of oil, according to DMR estimates. Wednesday’s decision does not mean Jepson is out of options as far as appealing Hess’ drilling, but any future appeals would need to be brought in District Court.
An opposition to the drilling of up to eight wells near the sacred Native American destination Medicine Hole developed last year. A number of individuals voiced concerns ranging from added local truck traffic to wildlife management in the area and oil exploration encroachment into an area where Native American artifacts are known to have been found. In its decision last month, the IC added stipulations to its approval of the development of the land.
Hess must make an attempt to limit the flaring of natural gas on well sites and must alert the State Historical Society prior to site construction so an independent archeologist can check for artifacts, according to the IC’s original decision. Also, hydraulic fracturing can only occur in the area during the summer so as not to cause safety concerns with truck and school bus traffic on rural roads.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the decision,” Jepson said. “The thing that is most disappointing is that I didn’t even know there was a meeting (Wednesday). I think the story is that that the commission doesn’t let people know what they’re doing and what they’re talking about at these meetings.”
Gehrz sent a letter requesting that Jepson’s Killdeer Mountain appeal be heard at a later meeting. In his appeal, Jepson had also stated concerns that Helms was in a position of bias in his recommendation to the IC, an accusation rebuffed by Goehring.
“I cannot say that I have found at one time where (Helms) has approached us with a bias,” Goehring said. “Mr. Helms has given us options and provided pros and cons of situations. Still, we have to consider how we fulfill our obligations and duties.”
Goehring and Stenehjem stated that the time to provide information and evidence against drilling on the sites in question was before the matter came to the IC.
“I’m happy with the commission’s decision,” Helms said. “I truly believe that the right decision was made in this case. The grounds weren’t there to reconsider this case.
“Originally, this case was on the September (DMR hearing) docket and we continued it a month so that people could secure legal counsel and do research and come to the hearing prepared,” he said. “We actually re-opened the record for some additional written documents based on some archeological concerns and Hess’ plans around timing of the drilling. Normally, we wouldn’t do that. We really took our time with this case.”

Industrial commission rejects Killdeer drilling request

Industrial commission rejects Killdeer drilling request

The North Dakota Industrial Commission on Wednesday denied a Killdeer Mountains landowner’s request to reconsider a permit granted by the commission in January to drill eight new oil wells by Hess Corp.
Loren Jepson filed a request with the commission Feb. 7, saying among other things, state Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms was biased in his recommendation to approve the new wells in an area where four already have been approved.
Hope Hogan, an assistant attorney general for the state, told the commission none of Jepson’s four reasons for requesting reconsideration were valid under state law.
Jepson’s attorney, Thomas Gehrz, said he was not given advanced notice of Wednesday’s meeting and requested a delay in a letter to the commission.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said the meetings are public record and notification is not required.
A second reason Jepson cited was not being given an opportunity to respond to testimony at a Jan. 24 meeting when the commission granted the permit.
Stenehjem said public comment was accepted at that meeting because of the high profile nature of the area in question.
Other contentions from Jepson that the commission did not follow proper procedure for allowing evidence in the matter and that Helms was biased also were rejected.
Neither Jepson nor his attorney were at Wednesday’s meeting.
Reach reporter Brian Gehring 250-8254 or

Oil Drilling in the Killdeer Mountains

Oil Drilling in the Killdeer Mountains | Video

Jennifer Joas | 2/20/2013 

There are more than 8,000 wells drilling out oil in western North Dakota. But the proposal to put even more wells near the Killdeer Mountains has struck a cord with local landowners.

Loren Jepson appeared at an Industrial Commission meeting in January to speak in opposition to the proposed drilling. He, along with several others, were in favor of Hess drilling a three mile long lateral to reach the minerals.

The commission voted to approve the drilling. But since then he`s filed a petition for reconsideration by the Industrial Commission. In his petition he brought up several reasons for opposing the drilling, but the state says its too late.

"This was another issue that was no raised at the hearing in any way shape or form. So I don`t believe that established any grounds for reconsideration or re-hearing either," said Assistant Attorney General Hope Hogan.

The commission voted to deny his petition for reconsideration.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Senate rejects measure on Killdeer battlefield; Prime sponsor Wardner of Dickinson pulls support

Published February 16, 2013, 12:00 AM

Senate rejects measure on Killdeer battlefield; Prime sponsor Wardner of Dickinson pulls support

FARGO — The North Dakota Senate on Friday rejected a bill that would have provided about $5,000 for archaeological and historical surveys in the Killdeer Mountains battlefield, near an area where oil development is planned.
By: Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press
FARGO — The North Dakota Senate on Friday rejected a bill that would have provided about $5,000 for archaeological and historical surveys in the Killdeer Mountains battlefield, near an area where oil development is planned.
Sponsors of the bill had originally asked for $250,000 for the study, which they deemed important after the North Dakota Industrial Commission last month approved the drilling of wells about five miles from the site of the Battle of Killdeer Mountain.
Historians believe the 1864 battle was possibly the most important battle between the U.S. forces and American Indians. Archaeologist Richard Rothaus, who has an office in Fargo, and North Dakota State history professor Tom Isern have applied for a grant from National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program to study the area.
“To me, that right there is the start of the war that ends in the Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee,” Rothaus said last week.
Republican Sen. Rich Wardner of Dickinson, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, withdrew his support Friday. He said he believes the July 1864 battle was a special event, but decided that “private ownership should be respected” and that trumps the study.
“We don’t need a war going on in this particular neighborhood,” Wardner said.
The measure failed with 31 no votes to 16 yes votes.
Hess Corp., which received a permit last month to drill up to eight wells, has not said when it might start operations in the area. A Hess official has said the company seeks to minimize the impact on the environment.
Lawmakers opposed to the bill said some landowners were worried the study would have adversely affected their land.
Republican Sen. Dick Dever, of Bismarck, said there are many people who are passionate about the area and the history, and doesn’t think a killed bill should keep the State Historical Society or anyone else from doing research.
“With or without this bill, the historical society could work together with those landowners to gain information they might find useful,” Dever said.
Democratic Sen. Connie Triplett, of Grand Forks, one of the sponsors of the bill, said she believed one of the reasons the original bill was reduced from $250,000 to about $5,000 is because the study would not involve private property, only a small parcel of public land, and therefore not be as extensive.
The Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee had voted 6-1 to approve the measure. Fargo Democratic Sen. Carolyn Nelson, who spoke Friday in favor of the bill, said afterward that opinions changed after some landowners complained that they weren’t included in the process.
“Well, I think once we got into the family feud — some emails that went back and forth, people who are actually landowners there — the tide turned,” Nelson said.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Land Owners Win The Second Battle Of Killdeer Mountain

Land Owners Win The Second Battle Of Killdeer Mountain

Written By:

The Battle of Killdeer Mountain was a conflict between the US military and Sioux tribes in western North Dakota. It’s a fairly significant historical event, and there is a great deal of information and artifacts already collected from it.
But here’s the thing: Today the Kildeer Mountain battlefield, much of which is privately owned, sits atop major oil reserves. Environmentalists don’t want those reserves developed. The land owners want to cash in on the mineral rights they own.
SB2341 would have appropriated $250,000 for a survey by the State Historical Society looking for new artifacts. The obvious intent was to make some discovery that would derail efforts for oil/gas development. In the state Senate, however, the bill’s appropriation was slashed down to under $5,000 and the bill was ultimately defeated today by a 16 – 31 vote.
In other words, the land owners won this debate. Which is as it should be.
The challenge in preserving the history of Native American villages and battle fields and sacred ground is that you can’t throw a stone in North Dakota without hitting some place where a village was. Or a battle. Or some sacred ground.
Maybe that’s exaggerating things, but it can get pretty ridiculous. There comes a point where you really have to question the value of roadblocking development of certain land just because, a couple of hundred years ago, there was some skirmish there. What’s driving a lot of this obstruction are small groups of vocal activists. It’s worth keeping in mind that the ridiculous grand jury petition to indict Governor Jack Dalrymple for bribery for approving some of these areas for oil development originated in Dunn County which is also home to Killdeer Mountain.
The Battle of Killdeer Mountain is well-documented in our history books. With some prudent regulation, the land where the battle took place can be developed responsibly. What we don’t need is to stop land owners from profiting from their land on the off chance some trivial artifact might be found there.

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  • Avatar
    yy4u2  3 days ago
    Why then was there not excavation done for these alleged artifacts...until now when it doesn't fit the kook's agenda?
    • Avatar
      joeb  2 days ago
      Properly sited, a ten acre pad can access and produce oil from over 5000 acres of contiguous lease area. Access roads and pipeline rights of way can be routed to avoid major archaeological sites. There is enough wiggle room that oil production and history can coexist. Besides, the oil boom of today is tomorrow's history.
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      NDArchaeologist  2 days ago
      The State Historical Society does not have the resources to excavate, they are understaffed and overworked, and oil development has increased their workload as is the case in all state agencies. They are busy trying to manage the tasks and duties they already have, plus build a museum.
      State Lands would have to give permission for an excavation, and the sites in question were not discovered until after the ground froze. State Lands has not given permission for an excavation, and the Historical Society cannot object because it is unknown if the sites are significant. They can only object to development if the sites are known to be significant, the sites cannot be determined significant until they excavate, and/or determine the boundaries of the battlefield. The battlefield has a recommended study boundary based on the written documents from 149 years ago. There is a lot of work to complete the study needed to determine the boundaries of the battlefield. Over 100 people died in that battle and their burial locations are unknown. The area has known occupation for 3000 years, and has stories and traditions surrounding it that continue to be practiced to this day.
      Also, archaeologists do not just go around digging holes just because. Preservation in place is always preferable, if the site is going to be destroyed than a plan is worked out to mitigate the damage. When an oil company puts wells in on a battlefield they are destroying the integrity of the whole site, and it doesn't matter if they put fill on it. The fill itself is destruction of the site. In that case Hess and Lynn Helms have made archaeological determinations on how to do preservation. These are not people trained in preservation and it is insult to all permitted cultural resource staff in ND for them to do so. To be permitted to make those determinations one must have a Masters degree in Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Resource Management, Historic Preservation, or Architectural History If Lynn Helms goes to school to get the proper education and takes on several grand in debt than I will consider respecting his determinations on how to best preserve sites.
      Private property rights are sacred in this state, and are not going anywhere anytime soon. No archaeologist would enter someone else's property without permission from the landowner. Also in the testimony at the first hearing Dr. Rothaus said that he could record the sites, and tomorrow the landowner could go plow it up, or do whatever he wanted with the site. No one can tell the landowner what to do with his/her land. A project with federal funds would have a lot of issues because of federal preservation laws, but the only thing that would stop a landowner from doing anything on private land is the state burial law. You can't dig up burials, if you dig up a known grave your going to get in trouble. Duh! You can't go dig up somebodies grandma in the cemetery, nor can you dig up a known grave site on the prairie. Common sense stuff.
      Also, one cannot talk about Whitestone without talking about Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, or the Uprising of 1862. The battles are all connected. Killdeer is important for the number of people fighting and the figures who fought there. Sitting Bull is an internationally known figure. This was his first known encounter with the military. Gall and Inkpaduta are other well known figures, and if you doubt it check out the books written about these people. This is a Civil War site and the most significant one in North Dakota. It is part of what made this state and this nation, and we should not forget where we come from and where we have been. We should not forget the way our government chose to drive out the American Indian people. The government took away their food supplies, forced them onto reservations and then starved them. They have not forgotten the historical trauma, and the people of this nation should not forget either. It is important to recognize the lives lost here, just as our nation recognizes the soldiers lost in all the Civil War battles, and other wars we have fought.
      I'm not sure why the author thinks there is an archaeological, historical, or sacred site every few feet. It is completely false, and rarely is development halted for sites, usually sites are worked around without any problem, or real consideration for the visual and audible impacts to sites in ND. That explains why there will likely be a bridge near Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch, because the impacts are not given enough time and serious consideration, nor is there enough time to do serious research, besides oil is king, and not even Roosevelt's grandson can save it. Very few sacred sites are known in ND, that information is considered confidential by all the tribes I have worked with, and they don't like to share that knowledge. I believe I heard Fern Swenson of the State Historic Preservation Office say that less than 11% of ND has been surveyed, and only 4% of state lands has been surveyed. That leaves a lot of unknowns out there, and a lot of unknown destruction.
      No one was trying to block oil development, there were alternatives suggested for drilling near the battlefield, just not on it. Lynn Helms did not like the alternatives, even though Continental has drilled from three miles away to avoid the battlefield, and still have access. The NDIC chose to agree with Lynn Helms. Most projects go through a process with real alternatives, alternatives that take public input into serious consideration. That has not happened in this case, Hess would rather drill on the battlefield than on a section that would have no physical impacts on the site, and Lynn Helms has bent over backwards to allow them to do so.
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        DelawareBeachHouse  NDArchaeologist  2 days ago
        It's not a Civil War site. Were the Confederate agents fomenting the uprising? No, just as they didn't foment the Sioux uprising in southern Minnesota.Just contemporaneous. Appreciate your arguments, but you undermine your credibility with the ridiculous claim.
        If we give a small number of American Indian activists veto power, nothing will ever happen. They pay tribute to an animist, migratory past, where everything, everywhere is sacred.
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          Roy_Bean  DelawareBeachHouse  2 days ago
          Actually, the claim isn't all that ridiculous. Missouri was a slave state, claimed by both the US and the CSA, which wasn't all that far from southern Minnesota where the uprising took place. In any wartime situation you will have alliances formed because of the "enemy of my enemy" principle. Just look at the military assets committed to this "western front" during the Civil War.
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        Seejai  3 days ago
        I'm sure it can be developed responsibly, but a lot of things that should happen responsibly in the oil patch don't.
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          realitybasedbob  3 days ago
          So if you could make a buck by building condos on your Mom's grave you'd start digging?
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          WOOF  3 days ago
          Shameful piece of American history.

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            Roy_Bean  WOOF  3 days ago
            I won't argue the fact that it is nothing to be proud of, but it wasn't the racism that it has been portrayed as either. A similar event occurred in what is now Dickey County in September of 1863 and another in Georgia in November and December of 1864. The first was Whitestone Hill against the Lakota and the second was Sherman's march to the sea against the Confederate States of America. It was the belief of the US military, and presumably President Lincoln, that this type of action against both military and civilians would bring about the quickest end to both wars. It did contribute to the end of the Civil War but the Lakota really didn't give up until 1890.
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          Info  2 days ago
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            Rob Moderator  Info  2 days ago
            That's a government report, with a bit of editorializing on the cover:
            "Any full scale effort to extract oil from this area will devastate the landscape."
            Wow. Way to be impartial, federal government.
            But this is not a Civil War battle field. It is a civil war era battle field, but it had nothing to do with the Civil War itself.
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          awfulorv  a day ago
          Why not take a leaf from the Newmont Mining Memorial Book? Every week, throughout the year, to honor the hundreds of Paiute Indians killed in The Pyramid Lake war, and countless other skirmishes fought in present day Nevada, they explode thousands of pounds of TNT.
          They do this, quite possibly on the very sites where the engagements took place, to commemorate the brave Warriors, and soldiers, who died in those battles.
          There are videos taken of Senator Harry Reid, Majority leader of the U.S.Senate, pushing a handle and, otherwise, vigorously, participating in these memorial explosions.
          In light of this I see no, plausible, reason why Harry wouldn't want to attend whatever it is the oil drillers have planned on the commencement of drilling at Turtle Mountain #1.
          At the very least he should be asked to attend, It's likely his schedule would not permit it, but he would welcome the invitation, I'm sure.