North Dakota Should Lead The Way In Regulating Fracking, But The Media Needs To Be Less Hysterical
Hydraulic fracturing is vital to North Dakota’s economy. Without fracking, oil production in North Dakota would be shut off like a light switch. The state government, which has grown the budget by over 125% over the last decade based on tax revenues from oil production, would have to slash the budget. The state’s economy would stagnate as investment and employers left.
Unfortunately, fracking is also very controversial due less to concerns over safety than the left’s desire to see oil production and use ended in America altogether. But there is legitimate need for oversight and regulation of fracking, and when the Grand Forks Herald calls for leadership on those issues to come from the state level, I agree. With the Obama administration fighting a war on oil at the national level, the state needs to take this issue into its own hands.
That being said, North Dakota shouldn’t allow itself to be bullied into regulating just for the sake of satisfying political whims. And it seems as though the folks at the Herald aren’t putting a lot of time into putting some of the more sensational environmental claims about fracking into context.
For instance, in the Herald editor Tom Dennis highlights several very scary-sounding concerns about fracking. Such as the number of oil waste pools that overflowed this last year:
Some 900 of these swimming-pool-sized pits now dot the western North Dakota landscape, and as the Great Plains Examiner recently recalled, 50 of them overflowed last spring.
Of course, last spring saw unprecedented amounts of precipitation and flooding in western North Dakota. That 50 of those 900 “swimming pools” of oil waste overflowed is just over a 5% failure rate. Given just how bad flooding was in this year, that sounds like a fairly sound success rate.
Dennis also mentions “radioactive waste” from fracking:
One new challenge should be tackled right away: radioactive waste. “The Williston Landfill has been using a Geiger counter, an instrument used to detect ionizing radiation, in order to determine if waste material — much of which is hauled in by oil companies- is radioactive,” the Williston Herald reported last week.
And due to high reads on the Geiger counter, “23 loads from multiple companies have been rejected by the land fill since June 2011.” North Dakota should take the lead in addressing this and other fracking-and-drilling issues.
Any time you use the word “radioactive” people get scared, but if you actually read the Williston Herald article you find out that the loads were just turned away as a precaution. Officials are having testing done to find out of the radioactive material is even dangerous, and what has been found in other areas where fracking is used is that the radiation is naturally-occurring (the same sort of radiation you’d find while digging a basement for a house) and not present at levels harmful to humans.
So yes, we’re talking about “radioactive waste.” But “radioactive” is a subjective term. Not all radioactivity is cause for concern. Unfortunately, Dennis did see fit to provide that context in his column.
That’s pretty irresponsible, and concerning in that the reporting on oil issues in the state from North Dakota’s largest media company – Forum Communications – is going to be based (inexplicably) out of Grand Forks by Herald publisher Mike Jacobs.
If this is the sort of misleading, hysterical commentary and reporting we can expect on oil issues from Forum Communications, it’s going to do a lot of harm.Tags: fracking, Grand Forks Herald, North Dakota News, oil, tom dennis