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Other Views: Do the right thing on oil field waste

Crude oil exploration and production are a part of North Dakota. Oil has brought business and jobs. It pays royalties and wages.

Oil is a big part of why North Dakota ducked the recent national recession. Spreading oil fields across western North Dakota has also meant challenges of all kinds, including dealing with well-drilling waste.

North Dakota state government, citizens, landowners, oil companies and drillers need to do the right thing about waste.

The oil companies need to make good-faith efforts to take care of their well sites, haul routes and waste ponds and pits. They need to be responsible citizens. They need the same from their subcontractors.

The state needs to be a fair, firm and transparent regulator. While early on in the boom the state's resources were too lean, the Legislature has beefed up the staff of state agencies. The state must use its tools to hold bad actors accountable.

Landowners and citizens with concerns about oil development need to be smart participants in the process, keeping a close eye on the performance of oil companies and the state but also being fair and honest critics.

For the sake of the future of western North Dakota, we need to make this work.

So far, the result has been a mixed bag. There have been exemplary efforts by corporate and individual citizens. And, there have been companies and individuals who have failed to abide by regulations, laws and good sense. Each of us must do better.

People need to take advantage of the good opportunities that are presented. We believe McLean County passed up a good opportunity when it rejected Great River Energy's request to convert a fly-ash pit into an oil field waste pit.

Having Great River Energy, a cooperative with a known record, manage waste seems a better strategy than to send that waste to some unknown player with an unknown result. Rejecting responsible options for dealing with that waste will not make oil development go away.

That's not to say that citizen fears about the disposing of oil field waste are completely unfounded. Just look at the ditches in the oil patch, or read the historic record.

However, the North Dakota Health Department has the standards and criteria in place to protect water sources. Further, the Health Department has a record of working with companies to bring them into compliance and, if determined necessary, to hold companies accountable for violations. People have to have some faith in their government.

There's going to be oil field waste, and it needs to be handled responsibly.

Practical, science-based solutions are needed.

It requires not only responsible actions by oil companies, but also good-faith participation by citizens and landowners.

We are all in this together. Everyone needs to step up -- together.