North Dakota: more felonies, spills, road damage, evictions

The Washington Post recently published an in-depth investigation into the impacts of the oil boom in North Dakota. Some excerpts:

  • A state legislator says "There is just not enough money to deal with the impacts" and "We find ourselves being constantly behind the eight ball...."
  • Felony cases in one judicial district have increased by 85 percent in the past five years.
  • In one county alone, there was $200 million in road damage in 2011.
  • Day care centers don't even add names to waiting lists anymore.
  • Residents in a trailer park have to pay $5.00 for a 5 minute shower. Imagine what that means for a family with small children when the parents choose not to work in the oil and gas industry.
  • Local residents in one trailer park are being evicted because the landlord can get more money from oil indusry workers.
  • Spills are frequent.
  • North Dakota is flaring 34 percent of the natural gas being produced from oil wells. If it were a country, it would rank fifth in the world in this polluting practice by emitting as many greenhouse gasses as 2.5 million cars.

Economic growth and job opportunities are a good thing. But economic growth should be accompanied by strong environmental safeguards, good corporate practices that avoid spills, law-abiding behavior, infrastructure investment, and preservation of local quality of life--including affordable housing for those who do not work in the industry. I strongly recommend the article, and the accompanying video.

As one rancher stated about the royalties he's received: "I'd give it all back if I could for all the trouble it's been." He said his way of life is "gone forever."