Report Details North Dakota Oil Boom’s ‘Downside’

Concerns over environmental impact, lax regulations on display in New York Times feature.

The increase in oil and chemical spills in North Dakota has outpaced the increase in the state’s oil production from 2006 through early October 2014, according to a recent wide-ranging report from the New York Times.
The Times used previously undisclosed and unanalyzed records and months of interviews to produce a detailed account of the North Dakota oil industry’s environmental record and the state’s approach to managing the so-called “carbon rush.”
The newspaper discovered that the state’s Industrial Commission, which regulates oil production there, “rarely pursues formal complaints and typically settles those for about 10 percent of the assessed penalties.” The $1.1 million in fines collected by the commission since 2006 pales in comparison to Texas’ $33 million over the same period.
In North Dakota, the Times reports, more than 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals entered the air, soil and from 2006 through early October 2014. And problems seem to be worsening, quickly: One environmental incident for every 11 wells in 2006 has now become one for every six wells. Through early October, companies reported 3.8 million gallons spilled, nearly as much as in 2011 and 2012 combined.
The oil industry has given North Dakota the fastest-growing economy and lowest jobless rate in the country.