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Matt Breker, Oxbow, N.D., Published November 30 2013

Letter: News reporting distorts realities of ND Oil Patch

Recent news articles and letters distort the realities of a growing western North Dakota. Far too frequently, these articles ignore the positive growth happening in the region while overhyping the challenges that come with sudden growth. They pinpoint particular negative events while ignoring how the Bakken can be credited with the amazing economy we have throughout North Dakota. We should step back and think of the original settlement of the Dakotas and western Minnesota.

Like the Bakken, the original prairie boom was not a perfectly orchestrated settlement; it was full of challenge, hardship and opportunity. Importantly, it was, just as today’s Bakken is, constituted by people with a common purpose and common hope that built the attractive communities we enjoy today.

Too often, the stories we hear are made to sound like every inch of ground is being developed in western North Dakota, that it is overtaking nature. The truth, however, is that this exact same process was completed more than a century ago when our ancestors settled in the Red River Valley. They did not arrive to the tilled soil with the perfectly aligned shelter belts and roads we see today. They changed the land for their use. They tilled it, planted trees, built homes and constructed roads.

Building a well pad is little different than the farmsteads they created and we still utilize for our food supply. Every effort of humankind has challenges, and we naturally solve our issues and better our societies. If we had stopped atomic research with Marie Curie, we wouldn’t have X-rays, MRI’s, or chemotherapies. When we utilize resources of the land, we produce a global food supply, power our homes and vehicles, produce plastics for everyday life, and develop the products of modern medicine. None of these are possible without adapting the land for farming and energy development. We must stop overplaying news of crime and spills.

Claims of out-of-control crime are simply wrong. In fact, crime rates are still lower in western North Dakota than the crime rates in Fargo. But that doesn’t mean we excuse crime. Efforts to add enforcement and create task forces are steps in the right direction, have occurred in cities on our side of the state for decades, and are not negative events as they are reported.

Spills happen, and they are cleaned up. Landowners are compensated for their loss, and companies often pay substantial fines. Even the largest recent spill of 20,000 barrels is only 0.0667 percent of the oil we produce every month.

Our laws and systems are working. Our leaders are doing the right things. Instead of creating plot lines, let’s support western North Dakota in its growth.

Let’s put in place the funding and resources they need to become great communities. In doing so, we keep America’s energy supply growing and the economy strong throughout our state.