Tuesday, November 08, 2011

US Governor Helps Oil Companies By Allocating $$ To Sue EPA If It Tries To Regulate Fracking

By Theodora Filis

On Monday, November 7, 2011, North Dakota Governor, Jack Dalrymple, unveiled a $569 million plan to provide disaster aid to flood-stricken areas and to help western North Dakota towns struggling to cope with oil development.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its study on the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The study was designed to assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources and to identify the driving factors that affect the severity and frequency of any impacts, and outlines several basic questions with the promise that a dedicated team of scientists will begin providing answers to in 2012.

It was immediately denounced by six oil and gas industry associations:

“The EPA has moved forward with data collection for the Study, ignoring both its commitment to and a Congressional direction to ensure transparency and stakeholder input," this was part of a letter written by: Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA); the American Petroleum Institute (API); the American Exploration & Production Council (AXPC); the US Oil & Gas Association; America's Natural Gas Alliance (anga) and the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association (PESA) to Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator.

Speaking to a joint session of the North Dakota House and Senate at the start of a special legislative session on Nov. 7, Dalrymple, called flood relief “the most important, significant task before you.” While it is known as the “disaster bill,” the legislation goes beyond offering aid to North Dakota -- stricken by widespread flooding.

Neatly tucked away, beneath “disaster” bill jargon, is money allocated to hire four new highway patrolmen for western North Dakota, where the region’s booming oil industry has resulted in an exponential increase in truck traffic. Also included is $30 million in grants for “oil impact” spending on public works in western North Dakota, where there is great demand for aid from local governments to help cope with the effects of oil development.

 (Oil Spill Cover Up in North Dakota)

The disaster legislation also includes $1 million for a potential state lawsuit against the EPA, should it decide to regulate hydraulic fracturing, an oil production technique that is crucial to western North Dakota’s oil boom.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg Businessweek, reported “Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is a member of the commission. He says if the state gets involved in legal action, he'll coordinate with other states to keep legal expenses down.” States now handle individual regulation of fracking – North Dakota officials fear EPA regulation will greatly restrict the state's oil production -- one oil producers' group is already suing the EPA over fracking regulation.

North Dakota has the fastest income growth of any state over the past five years – almost all the gains are due to the boom sparked by drilling into the Bakken shale.

In 2010, the state ranked 19th nationwide in terms of median income, up from 40th in 2000 and 38th in 1990. No other state has seen such a dramatic improvement (or fall) in its ranking over the last 10 or 20 years. The huge rise in median incomes between 2007 and 2010 leaves little doubt that the increase in oil drilling has been primarily responsible for its dramatic prosperity.

So... how does a state, that is flourishing during such difficult times, fight those who are responsible for keeping their heads above toxic water?

Environmentalists and community members are concerned for their health and safety, and fear that fracking will contaminate scarce water resources and land. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in fracking regulations have now endangered the health of the environment and those living near drill sites.

Today, communities infiltrated by gas companies struggle with one question:

Do economic profits of extracting natural gas outweigh the environmental costs?

Additional information provided by a member of Bakken Watch:

"Today, communities infiltrated by gas companies struggle with one question: Do economic profits of extracting natural gas outweigh the environmental costs?"

In North Dakota, unlike most other states, fracking is done for retrieval of oil, not natural gas. Our leaders haven't created the infrastructure -- or alloted the necessary time to create the infrastructure -- to capture much of the natural gas that is released. Natural gas is generally considered a by-product of oil drilling and is often burned off on-site.

One other quick point, which is certainly open to debate:

While there's no question that the oil industry -- and taxation of the oil industry -- has created large revenues in ND, I believe our state bank deserves credit as a stabilizing force in our economy, as opposed to other states' economies. Many other states allow rampant oil/gas development, but few other states are economically solvent. Because we are the only state with a state bank, we are the only state that holds its assets locally, which protects us from the risks of speculation that has crashed other economies.

I hope you'll consider these points...