Dickinson Press' Top 10: No. 1: Booming ND Oil PatchWhen does an oil boom become an oil industry? Some would say when the needed infrastructure catches up with record-breaking oil production in western North Dakota.
By: Dickinson Press Staff, The Dickinson Press
When does an oil boom become an oil industry? Some would say when the needed infrastructure catches up with record-breaking oil production in western North Dakota.
All year, infrastructure needs like roads, pipelines and housing have dominated headlines right alongside lead stories of the tens of thousands of jobs created and the hundreds of million in tax revenues due to oil activity here.
The governor’s proposed $12.8 billion budget for the coming 2013-15 biennium includes $300 million to convert two-lane highways into four-lane ones, starting with U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston, plus $142 million to help counties and townships repair truck traffic-damaged roads. Under the budget, many new state positions would be added, including more highway patrol troopers, petroleum engineers and inspectors for monitoring drilling and well sites.
In 2012, the term “fracking” overtook “climate change” in Google searches, the word “Bakken” became a hot marketing tool, an LA production company sought oil workers for a planned reality TV show and journalists from both coasts and beyond descended on the area to report on the stories of low unemployment rates and fastest-growing U.S. population here in our midst.
The skyrocketing use of natural gas to produce electricity was projected in the state, even as gas flaring estimates of 30 percent with a loss of $100 million wasted were reported.
New state regulations related to oil production took effect last spring, though not without controversy. Industry groups such as the North Dakota Petroleum Council called many of the changes “costly and onerous,” but state officials with the Oil and Gas Division said “tough rules” are necessary to ensure the integrity of wells for the next 30 years.
The new rules include requiring companies to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, banning the dumping of liquid wastes into an open pit, except in cases where the oil well is less than 5,000 feet, increasing the bond requirement from $20,000 to $50,000 for oil wells.
A preliminary report on hydraulic fracturing was released late in the year by the EPA; industry analysts said the report shed little light on what the agency will recommend in its final report, due out in 2014.
The purpose of the study is to assess the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, if any, and to identify the driving factors that may affect the severity and frequency of such impacts; wells in Dunn County and the Killdeer area are among the seven sites included in the congressionally-mandated study.
Editor’s Note: This is the last story in The Dickinson Press’ top 10 stories of the year. Previously on the list:
2: Western ND roads get dangerous
3: Crew camps grow in popularity
4: Rocky year for DSU
5: Tragedy in New Town
6: Small western ND cities see economic, housing boom
7: Rents double, triple; housing construction industry taking off
8: Dry conditions lead to months-long burn bans, wildfires
9: Property tax bill shot down, Heitkamp beats Berg in election
10: Controversy with Stark County Sheriff Clarence Tuhy