Dakota Resource Council: Oil Patch Residents Want Voice In Legislation

Brenda Jorgenson, center, a farmer and rancher near White Earth, N.D., speaks on a panel about impacts of oil development during the Dakota Resource Council’s annual meeting Saturday in Bismarck. Cedar Gillette, left, of New Town, N.D., and Donny Nelson, right, who farms and ranches near Keene, N.D., also were panelists. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

BISMARCK – Brenda Jorgenson wasn’t used to being a public speaker or environmental advocate.

But the third-generation farmer and rancher near White Earth, N.D., is becoming one as she works to prevent oil development from harming the White Earth Valley for future generations.

“I’ve learned that I have to because I feel that I’ve been called to be a steward of the land that we’ve been privileged to farm and ranch,” she said.

Jorgenson and two other residents in the epicenter of North Dakota’s oil development spoke about the impacts Saturday during the Dakota Resource Council’s annual meeting in Bismarck.

During the meeting, themed “Build a Better Bakken,” members passed a resolution to work with legislators to direct at least 40 percent of local oil tax revenue back to the impacted communities.

Members also plan to support legislation directing a minimum of $10 million from the Resources Trust Fund for programs that support energy efficiency, energy assistance and renewable energy.

Residents of the oil-impacted communities need to be heard during the legislative session, said panelist Cedar Gillette, a New Town, N.D., resident.

“We need a voice and we need a voice in legislation,” Gillette said. “Everything is not ‘Rocking the Bakken.’”

Donny Nelson, a farmer and rancher near Keene, N.D., said his greatest concern is the millions of gallons of water being taken out of aquifers for hydraulic fracturing.

“I don’t think we have the right to use that water like that,” Nelson said. “The future generations are going to be the ones that suffer.”

Nelson also raised concerns about flaring of natural gas, and several in attendance said the North Dakota Industrial Commission should do more to restrict flaring and stop wasting the natural resource.

Jorgenson, who has an oil well 800 feet from her home, said the flare is noisy.

“Some days it sounds like a jet engine right outside,” she said.

But it’s even worse when the flare goes out because “we get terrible smells and it infiltrates the house, the yard,” Jorgenson said.

Gillette said residents of the Fort Berthold Reservation are “trampled” by oil impacts like housing shortages, cost of living increases, dangerous truck traffic and increased crime.

“Our sense of public safety is gone. We don’t know who’s around us,” Gillette said. “It just feels like we’re surrounded by this chaos and we don’t know what’s going on.”

Residents are so overwhelmed by the everyday impacts that it’s difficult for them to attend public hearings or educate themselves on environmental issues, Gillette said. Agencies should notify the public about hearings and put the information in plain language, “not just so a scientist can read it,” Gillette said.

Jorgenson said it’s difficult to find out about hearings to approve permits related to oil and gas development.

“For a person to object, how do you know?” Jorgenson said. “I can’t believe the rigmarole it takes to try to find that out.”

1 Response

  1. Dennis Conner

    “I don’t think we have the right to use water like that, Nelson said, the future generations are going to be the ones to suffer.” Right Sir, that water down there is finite, it never gets replaced, it will disappear for future generations and they will have nothing to drink! Please! Use some common sense in your arguments.

    How many of these so-called “stewards of the land” turn down the money they make from their mineral rights to the land that they currently reside on? How many of these sacred parcels will their heirs keep away from the greedy capitalist oil mongers?

    Noise? Smell? How about the obnoxious smell that comes from cattle reinvigorating nature? See how absurd comments like this are? Everything in life is a trade off, everything! I care about nature far more than any of you do! My passion is “wildlife photography” and am known for combining nature and man to show how they coexist!

    You should be allowed to have your input and no American would or should deny you your say….THAT is what our country is supposed to stand for! But remember that pesky little thing called “majority rules”? It is bothersome at times but its there for the same reason as “freedom to speak your views” no matter how many people get offended.

    Like when I see all the “thumbs down” after my comments. Do I get offended? No, in fact, it reminds me that people can still read. Now whether they can still write is as yet undetermined. So don’t just show your displeasure, write back and say why! Otherwise your just being flippant!


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