Putting a fix in the Oil PatchThe oil boom in western North Dakota has meant jobs, a vibrant economy and strong state tax revenues.
By: The Bismarck Tribune , The Jamestown Sun
The oil boom in western North Dakota has meant jobs, a vibrant economy and strong state tax revenues.
Getting a handle on the challenges that have come with the benefits of record drilling and crude production has been difficult for local and state government. The intense development has created challenges and unexpected consequences, from dust and traffic to housing, law enforcement and education.
It hasn’t always been pretty. The state has been playing a lot of “catch up.”
Now Gov. Jack Dalrymple, based on a tour of 14 western North Dakota communities, has initiated a state government response tuned toward local issues in the Oil Patch. It polishes the response from the Legislature and fills in some of the gaps.
It’s practical. Looks to be effective. And it’s a good mix of immediate nuts-and-bolts actions and resources for broader planning.
It does not — nor should not — deal with each and every issue related to oil development. It focuses on the issues facing city and county governments. It does not touch on wildlife or environmental concerns, regulation of drilling or pipelines, nor does it take on leasing issues. Those subjects need their own state responses.
Rather, the “tour response” continues legislative efforts with transportation and housing issues, as well as safety and planning.
The Legislature, in its regular and special sessions, tried to tackle the biggest, most pressing issues — primarily shortcomings in infrastructure, mostly road improvements. Lawmakers appropriated nearly $1 billion for western North Dakota.
The Tribune likes that the state response tries to move truck traffic out of communities where there’s oil production. That traffic has been a huge problem, which requires complicated and expensive fixes. There’s a commitment toward dealing with dust.
The response works to make more funds accessible for housing, including low- and moderate-income housing. It puts additional state troopers in the area. And it stresses and supports planning. Most of these issues deal with the quality of life in the impacted communities.
A different sort of wrinkle in the state response is to hire an “energy impact coordinator” to monitor local issues and report to the governor’s Cabinet — in other words, an information pipeline from the oil patch to the Capitol. It appears the idea is to make sure state officials have a pulse on what’s going on in western North Dakota.
All the pieces in the response, and there are many, appear to take serious the time spent listening to local officials on the tour. It’s not pie-in-the-sky stuff, but reality based.
The state response must be effective. It depends upon state agencies being able to deliver a practical result. It could depend upon how plugged-in the energy impact coordinator might be. And, it’s good to remember, state government isn’t the only player in this drama. The cast includes the people who live in the oil patch, oil companies, federal agencies and world markets. It’s a show of epic proportions and will require a super effort by all concerned to succeed.
The important thing today is that state government officials talked to local officials on the ground, have identified specific problems and now have a plan to address the most grievous issues in a practical way.