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Letter: Hidden costs, silenced hazards of oil industry

The U.S. is finally taking note of North Dakota, not only because of the flooding, but because of a much larger issue: oil.

This week, Bismarck hosted the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission's mid-year meeting, convening nearly every governor in the nation. Let's hope that with all the fresh eyes, the oil patch receives the scrutiny it deserves.

The IOGCC brings industry executives together with governors and other public officials. There is no transparency nor any place for citizens to voice input. The IOGCC has a well-known reputation for cultivating pro-extraction governors, crafting pro-extraction policies and promoting information inclined toward extraction industries.

This mid-year meeting marks a significant time in the oil and gas industry, as development is booming but lacks any real oversight or public accountability, particularly in North Dakota. Companies have shown they cut corners and the Department of Mineral Resources is under-equipped for the magnitude of activity.

North Dakotans have quickly seen their prairie change from agricultural land to industrial zones. The burdens of extraction are externalized by companies and deeply felt by North Dakota communities. The hidden costs and silenced hazards of the oil boom include perpetual leases, waste pit mismanagement, insufficient bonding, land segmentation and intimidation, not to mention countless spills on cropland and pastures this spring.

It's commendable to hear the DMR call for closed-loop systems, something that's been advocated for by landowner groups for awhile. This is a significant step in the right direction. It's also important that companies are moving to multi-well pads, an important move for impact reduction.

These are commonsense measures because it's the responsibility of our state agencies and elected officials to protect North Dakotans first. It's their job to scrutinize over the benefit or detriment of development in North Dakota, not to act as a placeholder simply to validate oil and gas extraction. North Dakota needs agencies which it can trust and depend on, officials who will be judicious with leasing and firm on safety enforcement, because we'll soon have a prairie of infinite rigs. No one wants officials that are soft on companies that spill oil.

In light of the IOGCC meeting in North Dakota -- on the front porch of the booming Bakken -- I call on my officials to act independently and prudently. I want responsible development, accountability, and transparency between corporations and government in order protect those affected by fossil fuel extraction.

Marie D. Hoff, Dakota Resource Council member, Bismarck