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Other Views: DRC’s credibility on the line

The response by the Dakota Resource Council to an oil train wreck in West Virginia is so over the top it further erodes the credibility of an organization that is increasingly credibility-challenged.

The DRC said the train derailment and explosion in West Virginia is North Dakota’s fault because the train’s tank cars were carrying volatile Bakken crude oil. North Dakota is to blame, the DRC said, because the state’s regulations regarding volatility of oil do not measure up.

A news release said Gov. Jack Dalrymple shows “a troubling disregard of real problems with exploding Bakken oil trains.” That manipulation of facts was followed on at least one talk radio show with a DRC leader actually assigning responsibility for the West Virginia derailment to North Dakota.

Such fact-starved hyperbole lends credence to the charge that the people who lead the DRC are “radical environmentalists,” and therefore should be dismissed and marginalized. Too bad. A responsible DRC can be an important player in the necessary effort to convince state regulators to do better. Rather than shout silliness from the sidelines, the DRC could be a collaborative conscience that works to affect change within the realities of the state’s energy economy.

Among those realities:

Dalrymple, as chairman of the Industrial Commission, has led the drive to impose a stricter volatility standard for oil moved in rail cars. DRC might not believe the standard is strict enough or that it gives the industry too much leeway. But the process of full implementation is underway, so the new standard has yet to go into effect. Indeed, the oil in the West Virginia train was not subject to the new standard.

Secondly, it’s ridiculous to charge that a state that produces a flammable raw material is responsible for a fire. That’s like blaming a logger in Oregon for a house fire because wood burns. It’s like blaming Louisiana’s governor for a natural gas leak and fire at a New York City pipeline.

Finally, DRC and similar organizations are anti-fossil fuels. That mantra underlies all their activities against oil development, oil trains, oil regulation and oil pipelines. Apparently pining for a utopian non-carbon-based energy landscape, they seize every opportunity to attack every aspect of traditional energy sources, whether the criticism is sound or not.

Don’t misunderstand. DRC’s voice in the energy debate is welcome and necessary. But when it goes from informed and measured to foolish and shrill, reasonable North Dakotans will tune it out.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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