A mountain to climbContinuing his fight to limit oil drilling around the Killdeer Mountains, Dunn County landowner Loren Jepson on Thursday filed a petition requesting a rehearing on a North Dakota Industrial Commission decision issued late last month.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
Continuing his fight to limit oil drilling around the Killdeer Mountains, Dunn County landowner Loren Jepson on Thursday filed a petition requesting a rehearing on a North Dakota Industrial Commission decision issued late last month.
Through his attorney, Thomas Gehrz of Mackoff Kellogg in Dickinson, Jepson filed a formal appeal to the IC asking for a suspension of the commission’s Jan. 24 decision to allow Hess Corp. to drill up to eight wells in an area next to the Killdeer Mountains near a sacred Native American religious destination.
The nine-page appeal questions state Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms’ presentation of certain information while adivsing the IC.
“Helms asserted that ‘the proposed locations in case No. 18918 are approximately five miles from Killdeer Mountain’ and that statement is untrue on its face,” the appeal states. “The proposed well locations in this care are in fact located directly within the Killdeer Mountain Range.”
In a statement received by The Press Friday through DMR spokesperson Alison Ritter, Helms said “the petition for reconsideration will most likely be heard at the Feb. 20 meeting. Since the petition will be before the commission, we would not be able to elaborate on the circumstances any farther.”
In addition to Medicine Hole — a site considered sacred by many Native Americans — the area in question is known to be home to embedded artifacts and natural beauty, according to a number of archaeologists and conservationists. In his recommendation to the IC — which consists of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjen and Agricultural Commissioner Doug Goehring — Helms said leaving close to 3.5 million barrels of oil in the ground by not allowing Hess to drill in the area would go against state policy, which is to develop North Dakota’s mineral resources responsibly for the benefit of all North Dakotans.
Ritter said proper stipulations and safeguards for issues like added truck traffic and possible negative effects on native habitat in the area were addressed.
“As was laid out in the meeting (Jan. 24), the now approved locations are approximately five miles from Killdeer Mountain and Medicine Hole,” Ritter said. “Stipulations were placed to address the concerns of truck traffic and habitat. One stipulation places limits on when hydraulic fracturing is to take place. Another stipulation is to build the east pad location with fill only.”
Constructing the east pad with fill material would erase the need for excavation on that location, which would serve to preserve potential artifacts, the IC’s decision states. Under the ruling agreement, fracking could only occur between June 1 and Aug. 15 to minimize truck traffic on an area school bus route.
Also in the ruling, it was stated that Hess would be asked to work with Jepson to develop access to the wells that would minimize impact to residents. Gehrz said Friday that Hess has not been in contact with his client. An attempt to reach a Hess representative by The Press Friday was unsuccessful.
“Hess Corp. has made no attempt over the last few months to seek a reasonable resolution and has generally refused to return Jepson’s phone calls,” the appeal states. “Hess Corp. cannot be expected to look out for the interests of the landowners of North Dakota, as is the duty of the commission.”
When reached Thursday evening, Jepson said he doesn’t believe he and other opponents of the IC’s decision received a “fair shake.”
“We’re looking for the commission to reconsider its order,” Gehrz said. “We’d like the commission to take a further look at an option that would still allow Hess to drill, but in an area that wouldn’t be right across the street from my client.”
Jepson said he is not opposed to oil exploration, but feels that other options he says are feasible would be “better for everyone involved.” Ritter said Helms is “bound in statue to not only promote development, but also to regulate it” and added “there are many different parties he must protect in his role as director.”