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Lori Jepson, Killdeer, N.D., Published November 17 2012

Letter: There are other values in ND west besides oil

The economic boom North Dakota is experiencing is at a cost. Dollars are flowing within communities as well as out of state. The monetary impact has been documented, but we need to give as much consideration to the negative impact.

We recently protested the proposed drilling on Killdeer Mountain – referring to Case #18618 – Section 36 T.146 R.97W. When meeting with the Industrial Commission there are dramatic aerial photos of well sites in North Dakota. This global view brought to mind the task of bomber pilots looking over the horizon, dropping their bombs without full knowledge of the destruction on the ground.

Helplessness

Our contributions to the Oct. 24 hearing were limited due to our lack of expert witnesses in the areas of topography, transportation, archeology, fire services and wildlife management. We experienced a sense of helplessness. John Morrison, legal representative for Hess Oil Corp. said letters from the Killdeer school superintendent and area residents, and testimony my husband and son provided, were hearsay. He asked they be removed from the record.

An expert witness for Hess Corp. noted that the oil pad location was selected due to serious topographic issues and the placement would maximize economic recovery, prevent waste, prevent unnecessary drilling and preserve the pristine environment. These statements, although noble, are reiterated verbatim at the close of each proposal put before the board. The repetition could be considered lip service, rather than concern.

We nonexperts

Morrison provided expert witnesses by phone who were unable to answer questions from Oil and Gas Commission members. We nonexperts can address all of the issues promised by the oil field expert. My husband, my son and the local school superintendent, Gary Wilz, were able to identify serious topographic issues that dealt with the already hazardous mountain road, multiplied by the dramatic increase in traffic this would bring. The concern is for all the individuals driving the roads and especially for the safety of the children waiting at an intersection for the school bus.

Valid concerns

As an adjacent landowner, my husband has leased the proposed property for his ranching operation and is aware of the topography. He has valid concerns as to how fire would be managed; the staked sites eliminate ready access from the south over rocky terrain.

As hunters, my husband and son realize that the wildlife travel pattern from game and fish to school lands, both of which are open to the public, would be disrupted, thus affecting wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. With the location of the proposed well sites, it would be impossible to maintain the pristine environment that is home to eagles, deer and other wildlife. This area, now open to photographers, hikers and bird watchers would be irreparably altered.

Our heritage

Economic recovery was noted, but we ask the Industrial Commission to consider local industry: farming, ranching, tourism and hunting, as well as oil recovery, as economic gain. With alternative sites reviewed, our question for the board is: Who looks out for the interest of North Dakotans? Game and Fish would like to minimize wildlife fragmentation. State archeology and historical societies strive to preserve important parts of heritage.

Politicians set policy to prevent destruction of our land and way of life. They must preserve a state we want to live in. County commissioners struggle to maintain passable road conditions. Local fire and ambulance volunteers are stretched to the limit responding to increasing emergencies. The list is endless. It is our hope that our protest creates a collaborative decision-making policy and that this area, too, would be considered worthy of further attention.


Jepson is a Dunn County ranch wife and local health care provider.