Here’s a correction and a little more information on what I wrote yesterday about the XTO application to drill for oil beside the Elkhorn Ranch.
The hearing on XTO’s application is in front of the Oil and Gas Division of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, not the full Industrial Commission itself. That means the oil company will be asking Lynn Helms for a drilling permit. Gee, I wonder how that will turn out.
I don’t know for sure if Helms’ decision is final, or if his bosses, Jack Dalrymple, Doug Goehring and Wayne Stenehjem have to sign off on it later, at a full Industrial Commission meeting. I’ll find that out Monday when the Capitol is open for business, and I can call and get an answer, unless someone reading this already knows that, and can put the answer in the comments section below, or send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll put the information here.
The Oil and Gas Division is not housed in the Capitol Building, as I said yesterday. It is in a fancy new office building up in North Bismarck. The address is 1000 East Calgary Avenue. The easiest way to explain where it’s at is, go west of Ruby Tuesday Restaurant on Calgary. You can also get there from the west by going North on Washington to Calgary and heading east. The building is kind of tucked into a semi-residential area and a little bit hard to find.
I’m pointing this out because a friend of mine who knows about this stuff says this could end up being the subject of a lawsuit if XTO gets the permit, a suit between the state and federal government, or a civil suit filed by people who have an interest in protecting Theodore Roosevelt National Park. If that is the case, it is important, this friend says, that there be plenty of testimony put into the record at any hearing held by the Oil and Gas Division or the Industrial Commission. Testimony about why this permit should not be issued. Or testimony about other ways of getting the oil out—with horizontal drilling, for example—by siting any wells a longer distance from the Park. Technology exists to do that, of course.
We all know that mineral ownership supersedes surface ownership, and the lessee has a right to get the oil out from under the surface. The question here, it seems, is “Is it right to drill oil wells right on the boundary of a National Park?” Especially a National Park which was the home of Theodore Roosevelt, our great conservation president.
I hope a big crowd turns out for the 9 a.m. hearing March 28.
There’s another interesting aspect to this, which was pointed out in comments I received on yesterday’s blog post. One of the commenters said that Jack Dalrymple owns stock in Exxon Mobil, which is the parent company of XTO, the company who wants to drill for oil beside the Elkhorn. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I have no reason to doubt the commenter’s knowledge of such a fact. If it is true, it would seem that a vote by Dalrymple to grant a permit to drill for oil would be a gross conflict of interest. And if it’s so, Dalrymple is already guilty, because XTO has already received lots of drilling permits from the North Dakota Industrial Commission. Again, I’m not sure of the legalities here, but some attorney can probably help clear it up. It only is a problem in a state like North Dakota when you have a really, really rich Governor. That describes Dalrymple. Rich people buy stock in a lot of companies. And Oil companies, these days, seem like a good bet. Every time a company like XTO drills a well, oil starts flowing, profits go up, and stockholders benefit.
So I suppose somebody should ask Dalrymple if he does own stock in Exxon Mobil, and any other oil companies doing business in North Dakota. That would begin to explain his enthusiasm for the oil industry. Of course, as Governor of our state, he wants the oil companies to do well, so they pay their taxes to help state government. But if he’s driven by more than that—wanting the oil companies to do well so they pay him hefty dividends—then he loses some of his objectivity. As Governor, he’s also charged with the responsibility of making sure the oil companies do things right, and of protecting the interests of the people of North Dakota, which means being concerned about our air, water, land, wildlife, and quality of life. As a stockholder, he says “screw those things, just make my dividend checks as big as possible.” Dalrymple did, incidentally, take a couple of campaign donations from Exxon Mobil, at least $2,600 that I’ve been able to spot on the Secretary of State’s website. Some of their executives may have added to that total, but it’s hard to track them unless you know who works for the company.
Anyway, I’ll put more here about the process of XTO getting a permit to put four oil wells beside Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin site as soon as I get more information. For now, let’s tell all of our friends to show up at 1000 East Calgary Avenue at 9 a.m. Thursday, March 28. Just west of Ruby Tuesday’s. We can all stop there for lunch after it’s over.