MINOT, N.D. — There were two meetings in North Dakota this week of significant public interest.
At one meeting, state leaders heard ideas on how to utilize billions of dollars of accumulated oil tax revenues.
At the other, opponents of oil development made their case against a vital piece of infrastructure, enabling those revenues.
In Emmons County, the state’s Public Service Commission held a marathon meeting at which opponents of oil development expressed their opposition to an expansion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Across the state, in Fargo on the North Dakota State University campus, a legislative committee heard public input on how to use the roughly $6.8 billion (and counting) in the Legacy Fund.
If you had to guess which of these meetings would be disrupted by angry political zealots, you’d have probably said the one about the pipeline.
You’d have been wrong.
In Fargo, members of the local chapter Democratic Socialists of America — last seen organizing a softball team to show the public how cute and cuddly they are — disrupted the otherwise pacific Legacy Fund hearing with shouted expletives and denunciations.
At one point, they urged House Majority Leader Chuck Pollert, who was presiding over the hearing, to perform an unlikely sex act on himself.
“I don’t think they deserve respect. The entire committee got exactly the respect they earned,” pompously self-important DSA member Zach Echola told reporter Patrick Springer about the incident.
These DSA members might feel differently about who deserves what if a bunch of conservatives showed up to shout down one of their meetings. Which is not something that should happen, because even ingrates who mistake-shouted invective for intelligent discourse have a right to peacefully assemble and discuss their stupid ideas.
Can you imagine what they talk about at those meetings? Do you suppose it’s a lot of folderol about pronouns and safe spaces, interspersed by demands that mom bring down more sandwiches?
You can almost smell the body odor.
Anyway, once the children piped down, the adults in Fargo had a serious conversation. The pipeline discussion, too, was illuminating.
But I couldn’t get over the contrast between the two hearings.
Even as all manner of interests lines up with ideas to spend North Dakota’s bounty from oil development, some want to block the expansion of infrastructure critical to that development.
Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger told me the existing Dakota Access line has pumped more than a quarter-billion dollars — some $263 million — into state coffers since it began operating.
If this expansion is approved, an additional $33 million per year in oil tax revenues is expected (Rauschenberger says that’s a conservative projection).
Those figures come in addition to all the ancillary revenues oil activity drives, like sales taxes and income taxes, etc.
There is a significant overlap between the people with big ideas for the Legacy Fund’s billions and the people who want to inhibit the oil development which has been the source of those billions. People who talk about the oil industry as though it were some evil empire, and oil development as some great sin.
The Legacy Fund debate running parallel to the DAPL debate exposes their hypocrisy.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.