Published April 13 2013
Forum editorial: Listen to voices from WestNews out of North Dakota’s Oil Patch last week confirmed the industrial boom is chugging along at a brisk pace. Also confirmed: Problems generated by oil and gas development are chugging along, too. Legislators, regulators and slick feel-good TV ads can paint lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.
- Lawmakers found themselves in the curious position of approving legislation that eliminates permits for carrying certain types of stun guns. The hand-held devices deliver a strong electric shock as a defense against a would-be attacker. Deregulating the weapons was spurred by requests from young women who don’t feel safe in oil country communities, said Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck.
Think about that. They don’t feel safe in places that, until a couple of years ago, were among the safest, most crime-free in the nation.
- Williams County (Williston) commissioners complained a legislative committee cut money from a bill that was to provide funding for emergency services and roads. Without additional funds, smaller ambulance services will shut down, at a time when more ambulance services are sorely needed.
- Regarding road damage from truck traffic, the Williston Herald reported a county commissioner suggested four of the biggest oil counties “get together and shut the whole works down … Have the counties shut all trucking down, all rig moves, everything … I think they’d take notice in a hurry.”
That’s how desperate the situation is getting for local officials – that they would threaten the industry that generates tens of millions of new dollars for their counties, their residents and the state.
- The mayor of Watford City did not mince words about U.S. Highway 85, the major arterial road through oil country. Driving on the road between his city and Williston is “taking your life in your hands,” said Mayor Brent Sanford. New statistics show McKenzie County has chalked up 28 percent of North Dakota’s total 32 traffic deaths so far this year. “Appalling,” said the mayor, noting the county’s population is only about 10,000.
The concerns are not coming from consultants or from observers in the distant Red River Valley. They are the voices of people in oil communities. They are speaking out because they believe the state, that is, the Legislature – awash in oil and gas revenue – is not doing enough to improve roads, fund day care and schools, support health and social services and expand law enforcement.
News from oil country is news about the people who live there. The rest of the state should pay attention.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.