Lack of Transparency Is Only Part Of The Problem

North Dakota officials have pushed back on an online article wondering if regulators essentially covered up the size of a 2015 natural gas liquid spill. What was originally reported as a 10 gallon spill on liquid natural gas is potentially as big as 11 million gallons according to an internal document reported in the blog. One of those officials is Dave Glatt the Director of North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Glatt joined me on my KFGO radio show to talk about the process of investigating reported spills. Because of the online reporting of the perceived discrepancy, he pledged more transparency. Governor Doug Burgum supports the move. It is a step in the right direction, but only part of the problem.

Governor Doug Burgum is publicly stating he supports more transparency in spill reporting. His words are a complete contradiction from his actions. In 2017, Burgum signed legislation that raised the threshold for reporting oil spills on well pads. Fewer reports to public agencies is less transparency.

More public transparency on spill data will help the public understand the environmental impacts. That is the focus of Glatt and the DEQ which gets involved after an incident has occurred. Response is their job. Let’s hope the administration sees it through. But it isn’t enough. What is being done to prevent these incidents from happening in the first place?


Is it cheaper to put meters on the pipelines versus cleaning up the soil? I think they [oil and gas companies] would probably find metering would be better.

– Dave Glatt, Director of North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality

The pipeline spill in question was an internal pipe at a Oneok facility near Watford City. It is unsure exactly how much liquid natural gas was spilled and for how long because the company did not have metering on the pipe. It is overdue to find a way to ensure the newest technology is being used to monitor pipelines. There have been attempts in previous legislative sessions to accomplish this but concerns have been raised about boxing the industry into one form of technology over another. We need to avoid that as technology rapidly evolves. Governor Burgum is a technology guy. If the legislature doesn’t act, he has some authority as the Chair of the Industrial Commission. He just needs the courage to do it.


Speaking of the Industrial Commission, we need to a full performance audit on the Department of Mineral Resources that oversees oil and natural gas development. Burgum said he would support it as a candidate in the primary against Wayne Stenehjem. Where did that “outsider mentality” go? I’ve called for it more than once.

The state should also streamline pipeline oversight. Consolidation would potentially eliminate confusion for landowners, the public, and the industry itself. It also lends itself to reducing the size of state government by eliminating duplication of services. Actual reinvention of state government.

Let me repeat, public access to information is important and should be pursued. But more can be done to prevent these incidents from happening or at the very least mitigate the size of them. There is nothing anti-industry in wanting our natural resources to be extracted, transported, and then utilized responsibility and without incident. This is not an either-or position. Demand better.

Tyler Axness
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