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Letter: Petroleum Council stoops to untruths, scare tactics

The North Dakota Petroleum Council’s newspaper ads and notices to members urged them to oppose the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s proposal on “extraordinary places” out of concern for private property rights. This seems hypocritical.

In the last couple of legislative sessions, almost every bill proposed that would have helped residents and landowners was opposed by Ron Ness and the Petroleum Council.

The ad states “We all want to protect North Dakota’s beautiful landscape, but … at what cost?” That is a question landowners have been asking the state: “We understand oil will be developed, but at what cost?”

Nearly 500 signatures of individuals concerned about health and safety were presented to a 2013 legislative committee, requesting oil sites be set back 1,000 feet from a residence. Ron Ness argued against it, saying it would upset “corridors,” cause production loss, disturb land excessively, and rile farmers if a site in a field was 1,000 feet from the “section line” (not “residence.”)

No one was asked for setbacks from section lines. I doubt he was misinformed, so I assume it was deliberate, avoiding the real issue. Several residents testified about health problems they or their children experienced. Ness basically said, too bad, that’s the industry, live with it. Interestingly, at a 2011 committee hearing, Ness said a site could be moved over a hill to not interfere with a favorite pheasant hunting spot.

The ad and notice include phrases “radical environmentalists” and “out-of-state activists.”

The Dakota Resource Council’s opinion that the state should provide stronger landowner protection concerning pipelines was labeled “extremist anti-development rhetoric” by Ness. Isn’t it radical (or irrational) to claim that not building a site on a few places will “severely hinder and delay development”? Aren’t most oil companies “out-of-state activists” pushing their own agenda? Isn’t it extreme calling land and mineral owners’ rightful concerns “extremist anti-development rhetoric”? What the Petroleum Council states about this proposal is what residents are saying about oil development — it endangers “more valuable aspects of a piece of land, including agricultural productivity, environment, wildlife and habitats.”

Why doesn’t it care about private property rights when owners are forced to lease minerals, don’t want wells in their yard, aren’t allowed to sell land to certain groups, when eminent domain is used, etc.? The Petroleum Council uses “private property rights” to try to benefit their agenda, stooping to untruths and scare tactics to win public support.

Shelly Ventsch,

New Town