Roscoe Streyle, Minot
North Dakota has a lot of great things going for it; one of the best run states, low employment rate, thousands of open jobs, rising incomes, second-largest oil producing state, rising tax revenues and an increasing population. So, why would the North Dakota Industrial Commission even consider putting all this at risk? More specifically, why is Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem proposing more regulations and restrictions on one of the most important and responsible industries in the state?
I am talking about the oil industry, of course, which generates $40 plus billion in economic activity, pays $7 plus billion in taxes, provides in excess of 42,000 direct jobs, and tens of thousands more indirectly. The oil industry has brought a degree of prosperity and growth to North Dakota we couldn't have dreamed of 10 years ago. The industry's economic impact has had a positive effect on every community in the state.
Stenehjem's proposal would add up to a 2 mile buffer zone on over twenty "special places" including all of Lake Sakakawea.
The impacts of these proposed rules have large consequences.
A mineral lease holder would have a very tough time getting permits within the buffer zone, and the regulations would dramatically slow the permitting process while causing much more work for the director of mineral resources.
What makes these sites so "special"? And, what about our citizens private property rights?
My question for the Attorney General is what is the difference between an oil well site and a wind turbine or grain bin? Are they his next target? And under what guideline does the Industrial Commission think it can legislate?
An oil well site has been a beautiful sight to see for decades in North Dakota. These sites represent so many good things. Prosperity, growth, jobs, and America's leap forward to become energy independent.
The proposed rule changes are a direct attack against the free market capitalist system and are very anti-oil development.
North Dakota is still a great place to do business, don't get me wrong, but these type of proposals are moving us in the wrong direction! And, it's not as though we're a low-regulation state now, contrary to what some believe.
We have one of the top oil tax rates in the nation. Dozens of new regulations for oil and production, were created in 2011-2013, adding an estimated $500,000 to each well cost. In addition to Stenehjem's proposed regulations, dozens of additional regulations will take effect in 2014.
North Dakota is the only state in the nation regulating gathering lines, coming to and from well sites.
When is enough enough?
The Bakken isn't the only oil shale play in the nation, or world for that matter. Today there are more drilling rigs and more money being invested in the Texas Eagle Ford shale play.
The Industrial Commission needs to reevaluate their position. This is business, and we are competing against other states and nations for investment capital and jobs.
Yes, the Bakken is unique and special, but we are in danger of taxing and over regulating this vital industry. We should strive to be the best place in the world to explore and drill for oil, not one of the most restrictive and expensive places to operate.
North Dakota has been called the Saudi Arabia of North America, and it's time to start acting like it. A Saudi Arabia Prince recently said that "new shale oil discoveries are a threat to any oil-producing country in the world." I couldn't agree more with the statement.
Let's super-charge this shale oil development, not slow it down. The State or North Dakota should be thanking the industry every day and working with them, not against them, to bring even more development to the state. I believe some of the proposed rules and unhelpful legislation like the Heritage Fund, authorized to fund conservation projects with millions in oil tax revenues, are playing to the vocal minority that do not want oil development of any kind. I respect and applaud Ag. Commissioner Doug Goehring's strong stance against Stenehjem's ridiculous proposal. I would hope Gov. Jack Dalrymple would side with Goehring and vote against these unnecessary and anti-oil regulations.
I call on the farm groups, business community, legislators, oil industry groups, and free market Republicans to put pressure on the governor to do the right thing and vote "no" to this big government proposal.