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Shelly Ventsch, New Town, N.D., Published March 03 2014

Letter: Petroleum Council’s hypocrisy on ND ‘extraordinary places’

The North Dakota Petroleum Council placed newspaper ads and sent members notices urging them to oppose the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s proposal on “extraordinary places” out of concern for private property rights. This seems hypocritical.

In the past couple of legislative sessions, almost every bill proposed that would have helped residents/landowners was opposed by Ron Ness and the NDPC. The ad states “We all want to protect North Dakota’s beautiful landscape, but … at what cost?” That is a question landowners have been asking the state. “We understand oil will be developed, but at what cost?”

Nearly 500 signatures of individuals concerned about health and safety were presented to a 2013 legislative committee, asking to require oil sites be set back 1,000 feet from a residence. Ness argued against it, repeatedly saying it would upset the “corridors,” cause loss of production, disturb land excessively and rile farmers if a site in a field was 1,000 feet from the “section line” (not “residence”). No one was asking for a setback from the section line. I doubt he was misinformed, so I assume it was done deliberately, avoiding the real issue.

Several residents testified about health problems they or their children were experiencing. Ness basically said it was too bad – that’s the industry; live with it. Interestingly, at a 2011 committee hearing, Ness said a site could be moved over a hill so it wouldn’t interfere with a favorite pheasant hunting spot.

The ad and notice include the phrases “radical environmentalists” and “out-of-state activists.” DRC’s opinion that the state should provide stronger landowner protection concerning pipelines was labeled “extremist anti-development rhetoric” by Ness. Isn’t it radical (or irrational) to claim that not building a site on a few places will “severely hinder and delay development?” And aren’t most oil companies “out-of-state activists,” pushing their own agenda through? Isn’t it extreme to call land and mineral owners’ rightful concerns “extremist anti-development rhetoric?” What NDPC states about this proposal is what residents are saying about oil development – it endangers “more valuable aspects of a piece of land, including agricultural productivity, environment, wildlife and habitats …”

Why doesn’t NDPC care about private property rights when owners are forced to lease minerals, don’t want a well in their yard, aren’t allowed to sell land to certain groups, when eminent domain is used, etc.? Because NDPC uses “private property rights” to try to benefit their agenda, stooping to untruths and scare tactics to win public support.