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State needs more transparency on spills

The harshest critics of the oil and gas boom in North Dakota often cite production or transportation spills as a prime objection. Many have gone so far as to imply malfeasance on the part of energy companies and state officials.

The State of North Dakota isn’t doing a great job at allaying either conspiracy theories or legitimate environmental concerns.

According to an Associated Press report this week, state officials acknowledged that a 2015 pipeline spill of gas liquids, or “condensate,” at a western North Dakota natural gas plant that was first reported as just 10 gallons is at least hundreds of thousands of gallons larger and may take an additional decade to clean up.

The initial state report on the spill at Oneok Partners LP’s Garden Creek I gas processing plant was never updated. That certainly isn’t Oneok’s fault. According to the AP story, State Environmental Quality Chief Dave Glatt said the agency does not update initial public reports on spills.

Oneok meanwhile has been busy cleaning up the spill. In October, Oneok told the state it had recovered 240,000 gallons of the liquid gas and cleanup continued. There is no clear information on the actual amounts of the release.

Glatt told the AP that it is illegal under state law to alter a document, but the agency may create supplemental documents to update estimates on a spill size, something that was not done for the Oneok spill.

Exactly how many other spills have been mis-reported?

Minot Daily News believes this system is flawed and in need of reform. What’s called for is 100 percent transparency when it comes to spills, including a system of updating data readily available to the public. While that might not appease hardcore opponents of oil and gas, it should satisfy moderate North Dakotans. More information available to the public is always an improvement.

In the AP report, Glatt said “I get it–people want more information.”

Indeed, they do. They also deserve it.

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