Put yourself in the shoes of Lynn Helms, the director of the state Department of Mineral Resources. According to state law, he is to be the state's top oil regulator. Yet, he's also charged with the task of promoting oil development. Can the two job duties continue to be done by one person?
That's the question being asked by two Democratic lawmakers, who have asked the North Dakota Industrial Commission to separate the duties. Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, and Rep. Kenton Onstad, D-Parshall, expressed concern over Helms' role following an oil pipeline rupture near Tioga last fall and a oil train derailment in December near Casselton. Helms had initially refused to publicly comment on the Tioga spill, which wasn't made public for days, because he said it wasn't part of his agency's jurisdiction. But, the Democrats point out, Helms did share details of the spill by email with his daughter at Penn?State University. Shortly before the derailment, Helms said his agency was considering creating a report to dispel the "myth" that transporting Bakken crude by rail was an "explosive, dangerous thing."
We're not saying Helms has done a poor job, and his department continues to make changes to strengthen regulation surrounding the oil industry. But we do wonder if it's inherently unwise to ask one person to fill the roles of oil regulator and oil enthusiast. There must be times when the two job descriptions clash, and in those instances, Helms would perhaps find himself in a no-win situation. Members of the Industrial Commission, which is made up of Gov.?Jack Dalrymple, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, should give serious consideration to separating the duties now solely held by Lynn Helms.