Sunday, March 24, 2013

Our View: There’s space for both oil, conservation in ND


Published March 24, 2013, 12:00 AM

Our View: There’s space for both oil, conservation in ND

If there is one thing we will never have a shortage of in North Dakota, it is space. Regardless of a population boom threatening to double the size of towns, there is still plenty of space out here on the Western Edge.
By: Press Editorial Board, The Dickinson Press
If there is one thing we will never have a shortage of in North Dakota, it is space. Regardless of a population boom threatening to double the size of towns, there is still plenty of space out here on the Western Edge.
There’s so much room that even the oil industry and environmental stewards, who have never been too keen on all that goes into puncturing the earth for so-called black gold, have co-existed relatively peacefully since the boom began a few years ago.
This week, the two sides navigated what appeared to be a dangerous crossroads in that relationship when XTO Energy, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corp., on Thursday night withdrew its permit application to drill on two sections of land adjacent to the historic Elkhorn Ranch site in Theodore Roosevelt National Park — a week before the permit was set to go before the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division for approval.
We believe this was a step in the right direction for both state leaders as well as high-profile energy companies with enormous interests in the Bakken to show they are indeed as interested in maintaining North Dakota’s beauty and history as they all claim to be.
There is plenty of oil two miles beneath our feet, which means there are plenty of places to drill for it.
Though the Industrial Commission didn’t have a chance to approve or deny XTO’s permit request to drill what it said in documents would have been “not more than four wells” on those two sections in northwest Billings County — in some places less than 1,000 feet from the 218-acre Elkhorn Ranch site where Roosevelt homesteaded and ranched when he came to North Dakota in the mid-1880s — it should take this past week as a lesson learned in conservation.
State leaders must remember last week as they discern what areas of western North Dakota — be that the Elkhorn Ranch site, the Killdeer Mountains or land next to Lake Sakakawea — must be protected from oil and gas drilling.
While the Elkhorn Ranch may just be a grove of cottonwood trees and ranch land today — some claim it is also excellent hunting land — with nothing more than a barely recognizable foundation to prove it was once Roosevelt’s home, it is one of many places in this state that serve as a reminder from where we came.
This was about setting an example of how North Dakota intends to treat the places it holds dear from the potential irreparable damages that can come with oil and gas drilling.
While we wholeheartedly support the oil and gas industries’ efforts to drill for resources in our state, we also hope it understands that there will be times when it must slow down, take a step back and examine the historical significance of where it intends to explore.
North Dakota is a state proud of its history. It is a state proud of its people, both native and adopted. It is a state proud of its resources, both on the surface and beneath it.
Finding a way to ensure those people and resources coexist is paramount to ensuring the quality of life that we as North Dakotans hold dear.

The Press Editorial board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock,
Managing Editor Dustin Monke and News Editor Klark Byrd.
http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/event/article/id/66761/