The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
The losers in an attempt to wrest the Republican endorsement from incumbent North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring are leaders of the North Dakota Farm Bureau. Winners, in addition to Goehring, are Republican legislators who should be less intimidated by the bureau’s perceived political clout and demonstrated bully tactics. Farm Bureau leaders got their seed caps handed to them Sunday when their answer to Goehring — farmer/rancher/nurse Judy Estenson of Warwick — was soundly defeated on the first ballot for the ag commissioner endorsement. It wasn’t close.
Leaders of Williston should act quickly to modify a city moratorium on mobile businesses in order to welcome Sanford Health’s “clinics on wheels.” Sanford, which has emerged as the most innovative health care provider in the Upper Midwest, is ready to deploy two mobile clinics in oil country as part of its O.P.C. mobileMED. The units will travel to locations in North Dakota’s Bakken oil region. In the context of soaring demand for basic health services, Sanford’s initiative is brilliant.
The North Dakota Republican Party playbook has a new page this campaign season.
State Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, has the right idea about expanding a college scholarship program to include more low-income students. Flakoll, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is among the more visionary thinkers about higher education in the Legislature (there aren’t many). He wants to boost scholarships by $11 million, and add another 2,000 recipients to the approximately 8,000 who receive help now.
At a time when more pipeline capacity is being touted as one answer to the glut of oil on the rails, an uprising against more pipelines is simmering.
Here is a generous serving of high praise for North Dakota Game and Fish supervisor Kent Luttschwager. He seems to be one of the few (the only?) state habitat/wildlife managers who has spoken out forcefully regarding oil pollution. Last week, 33 barrels of crude oil (that’s just short of 1,400 gallons) spilled from a flooded oil well near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. The area affected is the Big Oxbow Wildlife Management Area. The offending company had claimed earlier that its wells were secure in the face of flooding caused by ice jams on the rivers.
What was looking to be another ho-hum tilt for North Dakota commissioner of agriculture could be one of the spotlight races of the 2014 political season. Instead of grousing over a likely slam-dunk for a popular Republican incumbent, Democrats are salivating over the real possibility they can win the ag office. Unlikely? It seemed so just a few months ago.
One of the explanations voiced by at least one North Dakota official regarding discovery of a second illegal dump of low-level radioactive oil field waste, is that there is no in-state disposal site. It costs companies a lot of money to truck the stuff to legal landfills in Colorado or Idaho. Therefore, the argument goes, bad actors in oil country will try to get away with illegally dumping loads of “filter socks” in remote locations. An inference could be gleaned from that sentiment that illegal dumping is North Dakota’s fault because there are no in-state facilities.
A verbal spanking administered to a Bismarck-based engineering firm provides a glimmer of hope that the North Dakota Legislature has not yet become a wholly owned subsidiary of the oil and gas industry. Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, let fly at KLJ because the company has not shared, and apparently would rather not share, information about a study of the future impacts of the state’s oil and gas industries. The study is funded by public money and was ordered by the interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee. Triplett is a member. The senator has it right.
The apparent willingness of the North Dakota Industrial Commission to better scrutinize wasteful flaring of natural gas in the Bakken oil play can add a layer of effective regulatory oversight that has been missing. That is, if it’s done right. The commission’s action this week comes just weeks after the North Dakota Petroleum Council announced an industry-led initiative to reduce gas flaring by as much as 90 percent in the coming years.