Other views: Oil-in-water response is necessary in N.D.North Dakota has been successfully dodging bullets when it comes to the risk of pipeline ruptures and oil spills in, or near, its lakes and rivers. There have been spills, as there always will be, but none of them have been major or caused significant environmental damage in the waters of the Little Missouri or Missouri rivers or Lake Sakakawea.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota has been successfully dodging bullets when it comes to the risk of pipeline ruptures and oil spills in, or near, its lakes and rivers. There have been spills, as there always will be, but none of them have been major or caused significant environmental damage in the waters of the Little Missouri or Missouri rivers or Lake Sakakawea.
Montana has not been so lucky. A crude oil pipeline under the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont., burst and sent close to 40,000 gallons of crude oil into that gorgeous river. Fortunately, according to tests by the state Health Department, none of that spill made it downriver to North Dakota.
The Montana tragedy, crazy local weather and dramatic conditions in the Missouri River, along with rapid expansion of oil exploration and production in the state, have put pressure on the development of oil-in-water response capability in North Dakota. That means proper boats, booms, other equipment and training ready to contain and clean up such an “event.”
Most recently, we have been told to expect to have such a response ability in place by Sept.1. That will be none too soon.
This oil-in-water response strategy involves local, state and federal government, partnered with private companies operating in North Dakota’s oil patch.
Six major pipelines cross the Missouri River system in the state, including two beneath Lake Sakakawea. In addition, the area on the west end of the lake has received intense attention from oil companies and spills from wells there risk draining into open water. That Little Missouri River also is vulnerable as it snakes through much of the oil patch.
The Yellowstone River, running full bore, apparently uncovered an ExxonMobil Co. pipeline buried beneath the river and left the pipeline unprotected from debris swept along by the current. That was no surprise to people in Bismarck-Mandan, where the Missouri River has apparently dug holes 100 feet deep in the river bottom. Fortunately, none of those holes was dug at a point where pipelines intersected with the river.
No sooner were the pipelines crossing the Missouri River found to be safe than a 70-barrel leak was reported from an oil tank near Williston. The tank was partially submerged in about 7 feet of water in an area where the river had spread outside its banks.
Williams County Emergency Service Director Mike Hallesy said, “If any of it got into the main channel of the (Missouri) river, it’s likely pretty negligible.”
It seems, one more bullet missed.
North Dakota will have oil exploration and development. People here will benefit economically from it, and for that we are glad. But we also have a responsibility to be ready when there’s a spill, especially when our lakes and rivers are involved.
An oil-in-water response operation must be established and be ready for action. Just like there’s need for specialized firefighting and other equipment necessary to address oil well fires.
The development and economic benefits of oil go hand-in-hand with investments in equipment and training, and the development of crisis response operations.
It’s a necessary and responsible balance that must be kept between development and environmental well-being.