Sunday, November 18, 2012

Local people on the ground are experts, too


Local people on the ground are experts, too

November 18, 2012 2:00 am  •  


The economic boom North Dakota is experiencing comes at a cost.
Dollars are flowing within communities as well as out of state. The monetary impact has been well documented, but we need to give as much consideration to the negative impact.
We recently protested the proposed drilling on Killdeer Mountain — referring to Case # 18618, Section 36 T.146 R.97W. When meeting with the state Industrial Commission, there are dramatic aerial photos of well sites in North Dakota. This global view brought to mind the task of bomber pilots looking over the horizon, dropping their bombs without full knowledge of the destruction that takes place on the ground.
Our contributions to the hearing on Oct. 24 were limited due to our lack of expert witnesses in the areas of topography, transportation, archeology, fire services and wildlife management. As local residents, we experienced a sense of helplessness.
John Morrison, legal representative for Hess Oil Corporation, termed letters from the Killdeer school superintendent and area residents and testimony my husband and son as hearsay. He asked that it be removed from the record.
Expert witnesses for the Hess Corporation noted that the oil pad location was selected due to serious topographic issues and the selected placement would maximize economic recovery, prevent waste, prevent unnecessary drilling of wells and preserve the pristine environment. These statements, although noble, are reiterated verbatim at the close of each proposal put before the board. Due to the repetition, one could consider this lip service rather than due concern.
Morrison was able to provide expert witnesses by phone that were unable to answer direct questions from the oil and gas commission members.
We, as non-experts, can address all of the issues promised by the oil field expert. The local school superintendent, Gary Wilz, my husband and son were able to identify serious topographic issues that dealt with the already hazardous mountain road, multiplied by the dramatic increase in traffic drilling would bring. The concern is for all the individuals driving on the roads, and especially for the safety of the children waiting at that intersection for the school bus.
As an adjacent landowner, my husband has leased the proposed property for his ranching operation and is well aware of the topography. He has valid concerns as to how fire would be managed because the staked sites eliminate ready access from the south over the rocky terrain.
As local hunters, my husband and son realize that the wildlife travel pattern from Game and Fish Department land to school land, both which are open to the public, would be disrupted. This directly impacts wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities for North Dakota hunters.
With the location of the proposed well sites, it would be impossible to maintain the pristine environment that is home to eagles, deer, and other Western wildlife. This area, now open to photographers, hikers, and bird watchers would be irreparably altered. Economic recovery was duly noted, but we ask that the Industrial Commission consider local industries — farming, ranching, tourism and hunting — as well as the oil recovery as economic gain for North Dakota.
With alternative sites reviewed, our question for the Industrial Board would be: “Who looks out for the interest of North Dakotans?”
The Game and Fish Department would like to minimize wildlife fragmentation. State archaeology and historical societies strive to preserve important parts of American heritage. Politicians set policy to prevent the destruction of our land and our way of life. They must preserve a state that we want to live in.
County commissioners struggle to maintain passable road conditions. Local fire and ambulance volunteers are stretched to the limit responding to increasing emergencies. The list is endless.
It is our hope that this protest creates a collaborative decision-making policy and that this area would, too, be considered worthy of further attention.
(Lori Jepson is a ranch wife, local health care provider and Dunn County resident.)