JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Whither The Measure 6 Coalition?

Word comes this week that the organizing committee for a group of North Dakotans who want to raise North Dakota’s Oil Extraction Tax back to the level it was at before the Legislature cut it in 2015 has decided to postpone its initiated measure campaign. Postpone but not abandon. A wise choice, I’d say.

Although the group already has its petition language approved by the Secretary of State, signature-gathering time is short, and the task becomes even more difficult without the institutional support of organizations that were instrumental in the initial passage of the tax in 1980.

To review: We have an Oil Extraction Tax because of an initiated measure passed by the people of the state by a wide margin nearly 40 years ago. It came during our state’s first short-lived oil boom and was set at 6.5 percent of the price of a barrel of oil, which was added to an existing Oil Production Tax of 5 percent, giving us a total tax on oil of 11.5 percent. One of the highest, if not THE highest in the country.

The measure passed at a time when oil was gushing from the ground in western North Dakota and red ink was gushing from state coffers and agricultural balance sheets after the devastating hard times in agriculture in the 1970s.

The 11.5 percent tax stuck in the craw of the oil industry and Republican politicians for more than 30 years, although Republicans, who generally have governed the state since 1993, enjoyed the fruits of the income from the tax and the budgets it balanced for them.

But finally, in 2015, at the peak of the last oil boom when the state was flush with cash from the oil tax and a humming economy, Republicans mustered the courage to tackle the citizen-initiated tax and cut it from 6.5 percent to 5 percent. It was a devastating miscalculation. Within weeks of the governor signing the bill, oil prices began a death spiral, dropping from more than $60 per barrel to less than $30 (I don’t think there was any relationship between our tax cut and the price of oil, but still … ), and state budgets began bleeding red ink again.

It’s taken until now, more than two years later, for the price of oil to reach above $60 again. That combination of low oil prices and a lower oil tax means legislators have been forced to cut budgets, including some popular programs most North Dakotans like, such as property tax subsidies.

So sponsors of the current proposed initiated measure figured the time was right to go back to the people and ask them to raise the tax back to 6.5 percent. And they’re probably right. But there’s a difference between now and 1980. It’s the players.

Among political observers my age, we speak with reverence and awe of the “Measure 6 Coalition” — and those who organized it. It was probably the most powerful political coalition ever put together in North Dakota. It was the group that passed Measure 6, which created the 6.5 percent Oil Extraction Tax.

It was four organizations, led by four extraordinary men:

  • The North Dakota Farmers Union and its president, Stanley Moore.
  • The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives and its executive director, Chub Ulmer.
  • The North Dakota Education Association and its executive director, Adrian Dunn.
  • The North Dakota AFL-CIO and its president, Jim Gerl.

Those four organizations probably represented a third of North Dakota’s population. And their members were activists, willing to rally behind their leaders because of the enormous respect for those four men, longtime leaders, giants of their era. I knew each of them personally and treasured any time they would share with me, sitting at their feet, as I was just entering the world of liberal political activism.

The four were brought together by then-Tax Commissioner Byron Dorgan and two of his chief lieutenants, Kent Conrad and Jim Lange. Dorgan, who had led the successful fight in the 1970s for implementation of a severance tax on coal, was the face of the movement. Conrad was the strategist. Lange was the number cruncher who figured out how and where to get the votes to pass it.

Those were halcyon days for populist activism in North Dakota, but they were nearing their end. 1980 was the year of the Reagan landslide. It was a wave election for Republicans, nationwide and in North Dakota. Republicans won every statewide election here but two in 1980, including the governor’s race, which saw the defeat of incumbent Gov. Art Link by Attorney General Allen Olson.

The only two Democrats to survive that election were the two men who went out on the stump and tirelessly, relentlessly, advocated for the passage of Measure 6, the Oil Extraction Tax: Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad. Dorgan was leaving his post to run for the U.S. Congress, a seat vacated by Mark Andrews, who was running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Milton Young. Conrad was running for tax commissioner, to replace Dorgan in that office. Both won by wide margins.

The two were the only Democratic-NPL candidates to campaign on a tax increase in a year when the country was headed inevitably to the right behind Reagan —  the rest of the Democratic-NPL ticket shied away. But Dorgan and Conrad had set the stage earlier, with their successful coal tax effort in the mid-1970s. Dorgan had even held a series of debates around the state with then-Republican House Majority Leader Earl Strinden, the two arguing both sides of a coal severance tax. It was classic North Dakota politics, the kind we don’t see any more. And Conrad was Dorgan’s chief strategist, behind the scenes then.

The pair, Dorgan and Concrad, were classic populists, leading the charge first against Big Coal and then Big Oil — and the people embraced them.

But in the end, it was Gerl, Ulmer, Moore and Dunn, the four coalition leaders, and their members, who swept the new oil tax into state law. And that’s what’s missing today. Those organizations, and their leaders.

To be fair, I can’t say whether the four leaders of those organizations today have the leadership capabilities to undertake such an effort, but what is obvious from the words of today’s organizing committee for the new initiated measure, is they are not yet all on board. Nor is there a Byron Dorgan or a Kent Conrad at the ready to lead them.

In the words of the organizing committee’s leaders, which I received in an e-mail today, “What we lack is endorsement from groups and organizations and their communication channels and infrastructure, all of which we need to get our message out to voters.”

Well. That could not be more clear. So they’ve made a timely, wise decision.

The strategy shifts now to the introduction of a measure in the 2019 Legislature to raise the Oil Extraction Tax back to 6.5 percent — an effort not likely to succeed, given the makeup of the Legislature. That’s what the Measure 6 Coalition understood back in 1980, and why they went directly to the people. Still, a concerted effort in the Legislature could attract a lot of attention and set the stage for an initiated measure in 2020.

But the Measure 6 Coalition does not exist today. A new coalition, with new leaders, must be assembled. Of the four leaders from 1980, only Jim Gerl is still alive. I think he’s approaching 80 and spends much time in Florida. But maybe we could get him back here to consult a bit.

I hope that the organizing committee for this effort can succeed in putting a new-old coalition back together. For in that effort lies success.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie —A Short Message About Our National Park

This might be the shortest blog post I’ve ever written. Or will ever write. But it’s an important one, so if you are concerned about the possibility of an oil refinery being built next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park as I am, please take just one minute to read it.

I had a chance encounter with Gov. Doug Burgum this weekend. We had a lengthy, frank and off-the-record discussion about the Davis refinery.

Off-the-record, but I think I can share a few things with you after the conversation without him objecting.

First, I don’t think the governor wants an oil refinery next to our national park any more than you and I do, but I believe he is committed to letting the regulatory process play out, without interfering with his agencies.

Second, I think that he believes, as do many of us, that there will be a legal process before construction begins on the refinery and that he is committed to letting that legal process play out as well.

And third, if the refinery gets its permits and survives a legal challenge, I am starting to get the feeling that we might be able to convince the governor to intervene personally with the company and try to get them to move it away from the park.

To convince him, we need to let the governor know that we will support any efforts he undertakes to get the company to move the refinery away from the national park by sending him an e-mail at governor@nd.gov. We can do that now, or we can do that after the legal process is over. But now might be better.

To quote my new online friend and fellow blogger, Judge Tom Davies: Amen.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Wild Lands In North Dakota: A Red-letter Day In North Dakota History

Today was a red-letter today in North Dakota history, specifically N.D. conservation history.

This morning, at the Bismarck Public Library, the film “Keeping All the Pieces” was released by the Badlands Conservation Alliance and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation. Presented by Jan Swenson, BCA executive director, and Mike McEnroe, of the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, this 15-minute film dramatically captures the critical stage we find ourselves in with respect to the Bad Lands landscape and the future of this hauntingly beautiful place.

Jan Swenson (left) and Mike McEnroe introduce the film "Keeping All the Pieces," released by the Badlands Conservation Alliance and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Jan Swenson (left) and Mike McEnroe introduce the film “Keeping All the Pieces,” released by the Badlands Conservation Alliance and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation.

Many North Dakotans stepped up for interviews in this film, sharing their deeply felt personal perspectives and concerns. In the months leading up to this release, Swenson and McEnroe have shown the film in communities across the state to more than a thousand interested parties. Now the film is out there for everyone to see. I urge you to watch it and to share it with your family and friends.

From the flyer available at today’s release:

“The Badlands are in crisis. Ninety-five percent of the Little Missouri National Grassland is open for oil and gas development. The future of the Badlands should be a decision made by the people, not the oil industry.”

This landscape is the heart of my personal geography, my sense of place. I grew up in rural Slope County, in the southern portion of the Little Missouri National Grassland. Jim and I have been working on these issues for decades, with BCA and other organizations, and in his entries on his blog. Together, on our own, or with friends and family, we’ve spent countless days and nights in the Bad Lands, camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, star-gazing, birding and hunting. As Swenson says in the press release for this film, “We do this now or we lose our Badlands.”

Also on my mind are two publications that were released some time ago, documenting the lands worth saving and calling for more permanent protections. The first was “Badlands on the Brink: North Dakota Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River Proposal,” published by the Teddy Roosevelt Group of the Sierra Club in May 1993. I hope to have a link to the pdf of this proposal in the future to post on this blog, as copies are difficult to locate.

The second is a document that I contributed to, along with Jan Swenson, Bart Koehler, Kirk Koepsel, Carol Jean Larson, Larry Nygaard, Mary Sand, Wayde Schafer and Webster Swenson. “Prairie Legacy Wilderness: North Dakota’s Citizen’s Proposal for Wilderness on the Dakota Prairie Grasslands” is a proposal by the North Dakota Wilderness Coalition, a broad variety of N.D. citizen organizations, made up of people who believe that the remaining fragments of wild lands in North Dakota are deserving of lasting protection. It was published in February 2008 and is available on the Badlands Conservation Alliance webpage by following this link.

What is important in this issue to remember is this: In the early 1970s, 500,000 acres of the Little Missouri National Grassland qualified for wilderness designation, By 1993, when “Badlands on the Brink” was published, only slightly more than 150,000 acres of potential wilderness remained. By the time “Prairie Legacy Wilderness” was released, less than 40,000 eligible acres remained wild.

“If we the public are not engaged, we likely will not like the results 10, 20 and 30 years from now.” Jan Swenson, BCA Press Release Feb. 1, 2018

Please get involved in these discussions. View the film. Join a N.D. conservation organization that is actively working on these issues. Make your voice heard for wild North Dakota lands to endure for the enjoyment of future generations.

My heartfelt thanks to Jan Swenson, Mike McEnroe and everyone else who contributed to the making of this fine film. I will confess that when I was shown an early version of this moving film, I shed tears.

“… where Nature can heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”
John Muir

RON SCHALOW: Don’t Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Or Anyone Huddled

I don’t like to brag, but I’m not a white supremacist.

I’m a pale pinkish beige, touch of gray, slight kale-green hue supremacist. Gray geese, they call the two of us in the press, although, honestly, they don’t pay any attention. Effing chromos, otherwise.

Me, or I, except after c, and the other bloke in the mookie genus, Roy, are part of this microscopic first cousin tendril of the standard Caucasian, like you see wandering around looking up at the sun during an eclipse.

No offense to nitwits. I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist Kodachrome who ever existed, except maybe for Roy. Tough call. He hollered obscenities at a White Snowy owl once, but the bird probably had it coming, considering it latched onto Roy’s head. It dug in pretty deep, so it must have planned on staying for a while. Roy looks a lot like a fence post.

Some of our earlier relatives were pretty rabid racists, though. For instance, Brita. “Filter,” they called her, used to shout, “you effing sapiens. Go back to your “shithole.” But she could pass for white in the sunlight, so she doesn’t count. Some garish cosmetic-laden, pumpkin-headed lard a$$ grabbed Brita’s p**** one time, and she made him eat the Russian wife catalogue in his coat pocket, with no condiments. Also a coffee table.

Roy and I come from a long line of off-brand genetic northern heavyweights, including Ragnar Lodbrok and Eddard Stark, as far as anyone knows. Roy brags a bit, and gets downright militant at times, but we usually just do a little bleaching and blend in with the white people. Our meetings suck. Point of order! Point of order! Shut the eff up, Roy! Give me that gavel, you effing mook!

Roy’s prickly personality has led to a good stoning on several occasions. It’s never seemed to bother him, though. Tough skull genes. He’s lost a few eyebrows.

We held a rally once, followed by a walk for Kodo justice, but we barely got a block before Roy spots some bad hombre down on one knee, and loses it. “You ungrateful SOB,” screams Roy before he coldcocks the poor sap. It turns out the dude was in the midst of a major heart attack. Who knew it could be so complicated to spot a myocardial infarction from 50 yards? Anyway, the drama got thick. Roy grabbed a flight and is currently selling LED light bulbs in Puerto Rico. Better than being deported to Mitchell, S.D.

But Fargo resident, Pete Tefft IS a white supremacist. He’ll argue otherwise. But he’s aggressively white supremacist. Trust me. Any brown people introduced into the country, by birth or immigration, is just another excuse to scream “white genocide” for this dangerous nut. It’s a bright red flag at the least. He lurks around Chris Berg’s POV page, waiting for the tossing of the red chum.

Not that it makes any difference to him, but sepia-toned, and other shades of brown humans, have been on this dirt for over 10,000 years, and many more nonwhite, non-Christian types have showed up and settled, long before this space was a country. And many came on one of the delightfully torturous and mandatory death cruises. This hemisphere never met Pete’s expectations.

Tefft calls himself a “pro-white activist,” which in Fargo doesn’t even merit a torch lit 5K — or a pancake feed. Only the altos feel like they’ve been trodden on for their skin color. The others are tailgating.

People in Fargo, including me, have referred to Tefft as our resident white supremacist. If only that were true. Pete is just tip of the iceberg with a defective haircut. Do you just goose-step into the nearest Cheap Cuts and ask for a Herr Himmler?

Alt-right dolts have permeated the country. But few altos show up at a women’s march looking for attention like Tefft. The misogyny runs strong in the cult. Ninety-nine percent of the yokels stay dormant, like devious cancer cells, until summoned. I’ve heard a tremendous tuning fork is involved. There’s always a humming in my head anyway. The dog whistles are less subtle, and the beast has risen. Then, there is the president, who just flat out spits the racism right at the camera lens. For some, this a feature not a bug.

In Fargo, the severe right flock to the usual online places, for a shot at feeling superior. KVLY and POV-something are always good for some race baiting headlines, as are Scott Hennen’s Facebook page and Rob Port’s Fargo Forum- owned blog, where they outwardly cheer the Tiki tots of Charlottesville and continue to bitch about Obumble. Port is a peach, except for his dishonest pit. Port and KVLY have banned me from their sites. Probably a good move.

  • Acceptable comment on Port’s blog: “Speaking of fun, i am trying to decide what to do with my first month of my tax cut. Maybe a new drone or a neon sign for my bar room. I need those things more than some 400lb ghetto whore needs her food stamps.” Warning: Not all of the comments are this classy.

Anyway, the first thing to establish for racists is when commenting on any topic, is that you’re not a bigoted racist and whine about probably being called a bigoted racist by some cuck officially with the “intolerant left,” then proceed to act like a bigoted racist. There’s a manual on 4Chan.

Thankfully, like everyone else, all alt-righters are not alike. It’s a buffet. Some believe there are people who identify as transgender because it is trendy. Others don’t know what those words mean. It’s a cornucopia.

Having an attitude problem with refugees, dreamers and natives, in particular? Those are the big three in North Dakota. A red-faced disdain for any type of immigration — and indigenous people — is all you need. You’re set. It’s like a starter kit for racists. The professional race experts who have never been south of Oakes, N.D., like to toss in Chicago, Baltimore, Ferguson and the words “inner city” to show off their memorization skills.

Oh, and the wall. It will make us safe from something, maybe Mexican bears, even though humans have been outsmarting tall barriers for a few thousand years. Outwitting a fear exploiting Trump wall should take a minute. The chain migration whining is BS. Even the few lottery recipients get vetted for years.

We’ve managed to keep tourism down, though. Less stolen hotel ashtrays, I guess. “Marge, let’s go visit that place where the creepy racist lunatic liar runs the show. Whatta you say?” “Shut up, Marvin. You’re an idiot. At least we’ll be safe in Mexico.”

White nationalists, neo-Nazis, Donald Trump supporters and the KKK. Think of the picnics. Swastika tattoos for the kids, crotch grabbing and zero for the cucks. Porn stars. Hankies for the incels who claim  “involuntary celibacy” because of SOCIETY, man. Sob. Alex Jones might be there. Maybe Steve Bannon. BYOT — Bring Your Own Torch.

“White identity” is under attack by multicultural forces, you know. Altos hate “political correctness” and “social justice.” Lib%$&#’s, dem@—!^%’s, and progs are frowned upon with a white hot passion. Boo to “establishment” conservatism. “Jews won’t replace us.” Some also vilify women, especially those pushy feminists. “Femoids” refers to women these rubes consider nonhuman. Deep undercover. Muslims, and anyone who isn’t as straight, as the alt-righters believe themselves to be. There are only two genders because they say so, and saying otherwise confuses them, more than it should.

They have their own language. Like Trump.

  • Fun fact: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s Igor, does cameos on cop shows, as the sheet-covered body. Lifting the linen, revealing his dead empty shark eyes, scares the dogs, and they butt their heads into the TV, so they stopped uncovering Steph’s face. Especially troubled were Mexican Chihuahuas. They waited 1,400 years to bite the first European to wade ashore, and they are genetically predisposed to clamp onto the tibia of racist humans.

For all of my years in North Dakota, we’ve been trying get people into this state. Bribing them, if necessary. Now, it depends. Fargo City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn and Rep. Chris Olson, and whole pack of others with at least one good opposable thumb, want to know, as Olson claims, what is the “absorptive capacity” of a town as it applies to legal refugees with a darker tint than Edgar Winter. Or Olaf, for younger readers. Rob Port discovered, through one of his anonymous sources, that Olaf is actually a fake fictional character and is frankly animated, and professionally so. Damn California leftists.

Piepkorn just wants to know how much these people with pigmentation cost the city. He never says, “if anything.” Breitbartism is alive and well in Fargo.

Whoa, let’s just do a cost-benefit analysis on everyone. Send Port a bill for the wear and tear he’s been putting on the sidewalks in Minot. Unreliable sources tell me he walks the town in a disoriented state nightly. He could be smoking too many bowls in a sitting.

Unvetted people are driving into Fargo every day. Some fly. We need to stop every moving van headed our way before the interlopers put in an arugula garden and start brewing deliciously hoppy — with a lemony tang — craft beer. Our city borders are leaking like the Trump White House. Roy was as lazy as 45 easy. But he split without a debriefing. He made good money, so despite his relaxed state of being, his tax contributions put him the plus column.

Such bull$#!*. Nobody wanted to know the “absorptive capacity,” of anything, when the oil patch was teeming with thousands of workers, many who drove their old pickup, all the way from Kentucky, only to find they didn’t have a job waiting. Lot’s of them ended up broke and homeless. Did anyone ask how much these poor people cost Williston?

Did we “absorb” the pimps, drug dealers, thieves, and other crooks who always follow the money, without a hitch?

C.S. Hagen did a research piece, published  in the High Plains Reader, called “DISLIKE” (available online), which identified nine North Dakota politicians who identify with the alt-right.

All of the state representatives listed are also “coincidentally” in the “Bastiat Caucus.” The “Whitesnake Caucus” was already taken, or so many people might say. The next step, obviously, was to look for names in 19th century France.

  • Congressman Kevin Cramer; aka “the barnacle on Trump’s racist ass.”
  • Rep. Rick Becker.
  • Rep. Luke Simons.
  • Rep. Chris Olson.
  • Rep. Daniel Johnston.
  • Rep. Dwight Kiefert.
  • Rep. Sebastian “Seabass” Ertelt.
  • Fargo City Commissioner and Fargo Deputy Mayor Dave Piepkorn.
  • Burleigh County Commissioner Jim Peluso.

I have no doubt that more altos have weaseled their way into our Legislature and other offices, but nobody is bragging about it. Some will rail against the leftist scum, cuckservatives, government lib%$^*s, snowflakes and, of course, the feminists involved in the “New World Order.” They also abhor pedophilia rackets in pizza shops and Hillary’s emails.

I don’t think those in Al Carlson’s “Angry Dinosaur Caucus,” even know what’s transpiring. Al is my representative, and he even answered one of my emails. I was flattered. He wrote, “I’ll get back to you.” Of course that was four years ago, so Carlson might be having trouble working his email machine. Fingers crossed.

Anyone who thinks that allowing less people into our country — Judy Estenson, chairwoman of District 23 of the North Dakota Republican Party wants that. She said so in the Forum. I’ll wager most the North Dakota GOP feels the same. — is going to help anything, is full of liverwurst.

Besides being a plus to our economy, it’s the right thing to do. Save lives, reunite families and provide opportunity to deserving people. It’s not like we’re short on space.

# # #

“An April 2017 analysis by the Government Accountability Office found that in recent years, 73 percent of terrorism fatalities were caused by “far right wing extremists.” — Washington Post.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The Prairie Post Office’

“The Prairie Post Office: Enlarging the Common Life in Rural North Dakota.” K. Amy Phillips and Steven R. Bolduc, history by Kevin Carvell. North Dakota State University Press, 2017, 102 pages, color photographs, maps and other illustrations.

Box 172, Rhame, N.D. That was my childhood address in Slope County. Our school bus driver was also our rural mail carrier, driving the route on gravel roads twice most days and once Saturdays. Our mailbox on the main road was mounted on a decorative iron piece that my father made in his GI Bill welding class in nearby Bowman, N.D. Somewhere I have a picture of my younger sister, age 4, standing on that mailbox.

What takes me down this particular memory lane is my recent reading of the beautiful and interesting book, “The Prairie Post Office,” published last year by the NDSU Press, sent to me in Bismarck via, what else but the mail.

This book describes in rich detail how the community post office is the linchpin of the rural town in which it is located. We all attend different churches and shop in different establishments (now frequently online). Many North Dakota towns do not have clinics or hospitals or even schools. But what many do have is a post office. It is what remains in the town as its beating heart. Here neighbors meet and chat. Here the diligent postal staff sees to it that everyone in their respective communities receive their mail, no matter its importance. And the potential loss of these rural post offices causes tectonic shocks to reverberate throughout these communities.

The book opens with a top-notch history of the postal service in Northern Dakota Territory and North Dakota by the inimitable Kevin Carvell, of Mott, N.D. Thereafter the chapters include highlights of the public service that the post offices fulfills and the social, economic and symbolic role of these places.

Each chapter is filled with photographs of the post offices and the people who keep them running, as well as citizens’ thoughts on their local post office’s importance. The layout is pleasing and the writing compelling — all the elements of the book make for a fine reading experience.

“As with areas elsewhere in the United State, rural North Dakota reflects the dynamics of change and continuity. … In our interviews, the prairie post office was referenced as representing and supporting this rural way of life. … Rural community members view the local post office as a symbol of social connectedness … important indicators of the community’s place in the body politic.” (pg. 85-6)

When I finished this book, I found I had a strong desire to see a picture of that old-fashioned metal door with Box 172 stamped on it. Sadly, I learned in a phone call to the current Rhame postmistress that progress had built a new building in Rhame and the old boxes were gone. Where she did not know. She remembered me though, and I knew who she was. This is the link that bonds us as North Dakotans, as Americans. Here is a photo from the book that took me down this memory lane.

When I was first married, we lived in rural Dunn County. One of the most thoughtful wedding gifts we received was a good old-fashioned mailbox, the kind one can buy at Menards or Ace Hardware.

Our routine, like every other citizen in the state, was to stop at that box each day and collect our mail. Oftentimes, we indulged in a long walk (about a mile, one way) to the mailbox. The elderly gentleman from whom we bought the place expressed shock at this, telling us that in the more than 50 years he lived there he never once even considered walking to the mailbox. In that time period, Jim took a part-time job as a rural mail carrier and often said that one really gets to know the neighbors by delivering their mail.

When we moved to Medora, we rented a post office box, and the post office there was definitely a hub of the town. Medora still has those old-fashioned metal PO box faces as it happens and a colorfully decorated exterior of the building, complete with a western theme.

These days, here at Red Oak House, we have a red mailbox of Scandinavian origin mounted on the front of the house. I’ve seen these for sale at the Norwegian store at Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. I’m on a first-name basis with my mail carriers, sometimes handing them a popsicle on a hot August day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Read this book and I promise you many happy thoughts about your connection to the prairie post office, the glue of our communities. Thank you to the authors and to NDSU Press for capturing this in a charming book.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — What Will Happen To The Newest Bridge Across The Little Missouri State Scenic River?

Last summer, I wrote an article about a North Dakota Bad Lands rancher who built himself a big bridge across the Little Missouri State Scenic River on federal land without getting permission. I wrote then, last July, “The folks at the BLM office don’t seem to know anything about the bridge or the road or the water pits, but they should, since things like that would certainly need ‘permission slips …”

Well, I asked the federal land agent at the Bureau of Land Management office in Dickinson, N.D., about it. He promised to get back to me. When he did, it was with these succinct words: “We’ve got a situation here.”

Since then, Loren Wikstrom, the manager of the BLM’s North Dakota field office, and I have talked by phone, e-mailed and even snail-mailed a few times, and a couple weeks ago, I spent some time with him in his office. He’s pretty close to getting to the bottom of this “situation.” Here’s an update.

The rancher’s name is Wylie Bice. His ranch is a few thousand acres beside the Little Missouri State Scenic River in Dunn County, just west of the Killdeer Mountains, in western North Dakota. Bice made a fortune — $100 million or so — selling his oilfield trucking company before the bust hit the oil patch. I guess he really wanted to be a rancher instead of a trucker, so he used some of the money to buy the ranch adjacent to his, which happened to be on the other side of the river.

It’s a pretty nice bridge! Cross over and you’re on federal land.
It’s a pretty nice bridge! Cross over and you’re on federal land.

That ranch had a federal grazing lease on some BLM land. which just happened to be right up against the river, where Bice wanted to put his bridge. So he did.

And not only did he put a bridge there, but he built a road to get to it, and he built a couple of large water ponds for storing water for sale to the oil industry for fracking, and he also spilled his farming operations over onto that BLM land. All of that without telling the BLM, or asking permission. Yep, I’d say that qualified as a “situation.”

So the BLM dispatched one of its employees up to see Bice. They went out and stood beside the bridge and talked about it. And then the employee came back to the office and wrote up a report for his superiors. And the BLM began taking action.

What they did is, they opened up what they call a “trespass file.” I don’t think it is a criminal file, just a civil matter, but the BLM considers it a serious violation, because they told me the trespass file is closed to public inspection until it is resolved. They did, however, tell me what is going on.

First, they told Bice he had a bridge and a road on BLM land without a permit, and they sent him an application for a right-of-way permit, which would essentially grant him permission to build a bridge and a road on their land (never mind that both of them are already there). They told him to fill out the application and to send it back, along with the engineering plan for the bridge and the road, so they could see if it meets their specifications.

Once he’d done that, if everything was in order, they would consider giving him the missing permit for the bridge and the access road. I thought that was a pretty nice reaction. It’s a pretty expensive bridge, probably a million dollars worth or more. I’m sure Bice would not want to have to tear it down.

The BLM gave him until January 15, 2018 — a couple of weeks ago now — to submit his paperwork. When I met with Loren Wikstrom a couple days after that deadline, he thought he might be able to give me the paperwork to look at in early February. I’m going to take him up on that.

If they do decide to issue a permit, Bice is going to have to pay rent on the land that the bridge and the road are on, and there’s going to be an administrative fine. They haven’t told me what the fine is going to be.

Along with the application, the BLM is requiring him to send his plan to “reclaim” his water depot. That’s right. Bice built two big ponds — I mean really, really big — into which he pumps water from the Little Missouri, where it is stored until an oil company needs it for fracking. Then he sells it, and the oil company comes and hauls it away.

A number of Bad Lands ranchers are doing this right now, thanks to our North Dakota State Engineer’s office, which issued more than 600 illegal water permits in the last few years to help out the oil industry. I wrote about that here last year. Seems like North Dakota’s state government is a lot more willing to just look the other way to help the oil industry than the federal government is.

It turns out that part of Bice’s water depot is also on BLM land, and the BLM isn’t going to allow that, so he has to remove the ponds and reclaim that land. The BLM also is going to charge him back rent on that land and fine him for putting that water depot on their land.

Bice also started a farming operation on that side of the river, although I don’t know what he planted. But part of what he planted was on BLM land. The BLM didn’t like that at all. It’s probably going to fine him for that as well and make him reclaim that land.

The BLM told me in a letter dated December 7, 2017, “BLM will oversee application of the National Environmental Protection Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act and other applicable laws in considering the proposed right-of-way.”

The BLM guys went on to say that Bice “remains responsible for all applicable fines and back rent during the application processing period. In the event a right-of-way is granted, all fines and rent must be paid before issuance of right-of-way. Should the right-of-way be denied, the bridge, access road and other developments must be removed and the sites fully reclaimed to their original state at the expense of the responsible party (Bice).”

Well. Sounds like the BLM means business.

Then there’s another consideration. When someone wants to build something on federal land, especially in areas near Indian reservations, that darned old Historic Preservation Act comes into play. The BLM guys told me they never did get archeologists out there to do a cultural survey. That will likely have to take place once they get a completed application from Bice. The worst-case scenario, they told me, is “if they were to find artifacts or stone circles in the vicinity. That would be bad.”

I’m not sure exactly what “that would be bad” means, but I suppose it could mean denial of the right-of-way, and/or additional fines for violation of the Historic Preservation Act. The law is pretty clear on things like that, I suspect. I’m not going to look it up. I’ll let them tell me if that’s the case.

The water depot on BLM land, which is going to have to be removed.
The water depot on BLM land, which is going to have to be removed.

I don’t know if Bice is going to peaceably go in there and rip out the plastic liner in his pits, bulldoze them back to level ground, plant grass for the critters, pay his fines for trespassing, catch up on his back rent for the road and the pits and the bridge and the farming operation, or if he’s going to resist and set up another Cliven Bundy standoff situation. We’ll have to see how this plays out.

I did ask the BLM what happens if Bice doesn’t cooperate. The BLM’s response: “The BLM first tries to work with the responsible party in resolving trespasses amicably. However, if a trespasser is uncooperative, applicable civil or criminal measures may be pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

Uh-oh. As we saw in the case of Jason Halek, the fellow who violated the U. S. Safe Drinking Water Act by dumping 800,000 gallons of saltwater down an abandoned oil well near Dickinson, which I wrote about here a few months ago, the U.S. Attorney in North Dakota doesn’t take these things lightly. So that’s when the lawyers get involved. Bice has plenty of money for lawyers. And things can drag on for years.

I also learned this week that Bice has obtained two new industrial water permits (one issued just last week) to pump water from the Little Missouri into his water pits. (You can look at them here and here if you want to.) Nothing surprising there. The water’s free, and the State Water Commission engineers love giving it away. They did place some restrictions on the permits, pretty standard stuff, such as taking precautions to minimize the visual and audible disruption to the scenic Little Missouri River valley, by keeping the shorelines in and around intake locations free of construction debris and litter, keeping pumps and motors sheltered from view of canoeists, setting pumps and motors away from the shoreline to make sure gas and oil leaks don’t get into the river, and putting mufflers on internal combustion motors “to maintain the tranquility and ambiance and minimize audible disruption of the scenic river experience.”

Uh, huh. We’ll see how that’s going when I canoe through there this spring (which I am surely going to do). I’ll also see if his scrapers and bulldozers have completed the job of getting rid of those big water pits on land you and I and the rest of the people of the United States own, and if Bice has planted some grass and a few cottonwoods alongside the river. I get the feeling the bridge will still be there. For a long time. I’ll let you know what I find.

Meanwhile, if you want to have a look for yourself, I can tell you the legal address is the West half of Section 33, Township 148 North, Range 97 West.

That’s it on the left, on the Forest Service map. White is private land, yellow is public land – owned by the BLM. You’ll have to get a Forest Service map and follow the winding gravel and sometimes two-track, roads. The road from the east is a private road through private land, so you probably should go there from the west, across public land. And you probably shouldn’t cross the bridge, like I did, because you’ll be trespassing once you get about halfway across the river.

As I wrote last summer: “Y’know, with all the things I’ve learned, and all the stories I’ve heard, about the Bakken Oil Boom, this takes the cake.”

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Of Refineries And The Public Trust Doctrine

The official comment period has passed on that sleazy company Meridian Energy’s request for an Air Pollution Permit for an oil refinery beside Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I’m guessing the State Health Department got an earful.

Mandan’s Tesoro Refinery. They all pretty much look alike. That white stuff is what you’ll see from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Mandan’s Tesoro Refinery. They all pretty much look alike. That white stuff is what you’ll see from Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Friday, on the last day of comments, my friend,Sarah Vogel, our former state agriculture commissioner and one of the state’s best attorneys, sent me a copy of what she sent to the Health Department. It’s so good, I just have to share it. If the Health Department can issue a permit after reading this, everyone there should be sent packing. And if the governor doesn’t step in after reading this, he should be sent back to Cass County.

Here’s what Sarah wrote:

“The Health Department is well aware of the views of the three statewide-elected officials who serve on the Public Service Commission. They have been clear that they believe that this project should not go forward without a ‘big picture’ overview that would come with a site review by the PSC. See, Bismarck Tribune, ‘Commission urges refinery developers to apply for siting permit,’ December 19, 2017. The majority of the persons testifying at the Health Department’s hearing in mid-January 2018 were opposed to the issuance of the air quality permit by the Health Department, and many urged that the Health Department not grant the permit until such time as a site review by the PSC was completed.

“It appears that the Health Department is evaluating comments on some type of a ‘bright line’ separation between its own concerns, and the concerns by other state agencies such as the PSC, and that it believes it lacks authority to look at any factors other than those strictly dealing with the air quality permit requirements set forth in Health Department regulations.

“Yet, the Department of Health is the lead environmental agency of the State of North Dakota! See N.D.C.C. Section 23-01-01.2 (‘The state department of health is the primary state environmental agency.’) Because of its additional role as the primary environmental agency, the Health Department should take a broader view consistent with the Public Trust Doctrine that underlies the duties and operations of all state agencies, including the Department of Health.

“As explained by the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Public Trust Doctrine is part of the common law of this state and overlays and informs the actions of the state as those actions affect the citizens of North Dakota’s critical reliance on clean water and other resources such as clean air. See, e.g., United Plainsmen Association v. North Dakota Water Conservation Commission, 247 N.W.2d 457, at 460-464 (ND 1976). See, also, State ex rel. Sprynczynatyk v. Mills, 523 NW 2d 537, at 540 ND 1974) (‘North Dakota could not totally abdicate its interest to private parties because it held that interest, by virtue of its sovereignty, in trust for the public.’)

“The Public Trust Doctrine is part of the overarching principles that should govern North Dakota governmental officials and especially those at the Department of Health See N.D.C.C. Section 23-01-01.2, supra.

“I recommend that the Health Department consider the Public Trust Doctrine in determining whether it, as the primary environmental agency, has a duty on behalf of the citizens of North Dakota to coordinate with the PSC to insure that all environmental factors are appropriately considered at the appropriate time and in the appropriate sequence.

“The Legislature’s use of the word ‘primary’ necessarily implies a leadership role with other secondary agencies for environmental issues. Here the PSC is pleading for the opportunity to do its job, and review the site of a project that will have a huge effect on western North Dakota in advance of issuance of a permit. The stakes are even higher since North Dakota’s premier attraction, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, is extremely close to the site for the proposed refinery. Surely, the Health Department has the discretion to defer its decision on an air quality permit for Meridian’s proposed refinery until the PSC has the opportunity to do a thorough and thoughtful determination of the suitability of the site in keeping with state government’s duty to protect the public’s interest.

“The idea that a Meridian claim of a 500 barrel disparity in anticipated production could prevent this critical and essential review is a weak rationale to avoid PSC review. To illustrate, why should the Department of Health take at face value Meridian’s current assertion that it will produce 500 barrels of oil less than the cutoff for mandatory PSC review? As the Department of Health is well aware, Meridian has a history of changing its numbers based upon the audience it is addressing. One set of numbers is provided on Wall Street for potential investors and stockholders; another set of numbers is provided to officials of the State of North Dakota. The latest illustration of the unreliability of Meridian’s public statements is its recent press release on the Health Department’s January hearing which asserted that most of the people testifying were in favor of the project. In contrast, the Bismarck Tribune’s story by Amy Dalrymple said exactly the opposite.

“In conclusion, the permit should be denied or the application should be held in suspense until a proper site review is conducted by the PSC.”

Well. Thank you, Sarah.

I have no doubt the Public Service Commissioners will read this and agree with Sarah. But as long as the Faustian refinery developers hold to their estimate of 49,500 barrels per day (99 percent of the 50,000 bpd that triggers a site review), the PSC is helpless.

But are you reading this, Doug Burgum? Because, ultimately, you’re the man responsible for upholding the Public Trust Doctrine, on behalf of the citizens of your state. The Health Department works for you. You’re the governor. You asked for the job. Now do your job. The Supreme Court has already upheld the Public Trust Doctrine. Do you really want to be on the same side — the wrong side — of a lawsuit with Meridian Energy, governor, and on the opposite side of your own Public Service Commission, when someone files suit to force you to uphold the Public Trust Doctrine?

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Breast Of Times

It’s been a couple of interesting weeks when it comes to what women can and can’t do in North Dakota.

In Wahpeton, there’s a communitywide debate about the Oasis Bar’s request to permit lap dancing. Meanwhile, at Chick-fil-A in Fargo, a woman was kicked out for breastfeeding her baby.

Let’s start there. This is a place that makes a living selling chicken breasts, some of which are not even discretely covered by buns. They sell chicken strips, too, which, frankly, is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to chicken strippers. The next thing you know, they’ll be doing lap dances.

The point is at Chick-fil-A chickens have more rights than chicks. For the life of me, I can’t figure out if it’s liberalism or conservatism that has gone too far here.

The woman and her child (an accessory to the crime) argued breastfeeding in public is legal in North Dakota. The language of a 2009 statute reads, “If the woman acts in a discreet and modest manner, a woman may breastfeed her child in any location …” Well, that’s clear as mud. The restaurant owner apparently interpreted “discreet and modest” to mean you must use one of those portable ice shacks and maybe wear a burka.

One argument is Chick-fil-A, as a privately owned restaurant, has every right to refuse service for any reason. Kinda like Woolworth’s did back in 1960, when it banned topless black women. If this societal decay continues, eventually you’ll have to sell gay people cake.

In Wahpeton, it’s legal for women to display their breasts at the Oasis, but a lot of people think that’s a slippery slope, too. Exotic dancing is a well-known gateway drug to shagging porn stars. Presumably, lap dances fall somewhere in between.

I’ve never had a lap dance, but I’ve just added it to my bucket list. I’m willing to give it a go, unless it involves tap shoes or a River Dance. If that’s the case, I’d rather be smacked on the bottom with a copy of Forbes magazine.

I’ve long been a student of breastology. When I lived in Hettinger, N.D., we discussed the curious duality of breasts on the local radio station, KNDC. If you were a stripper, it was the Evil Breast. If you were feeding an infant, it was the Good Breast — at least until Chick-fil-A threw a wrench into that argument.

The show was called “BS in the AM,” for the triumvirate of Bender, Tom Secrest and Al McIntyre, the host and provocateur. Although that day, Ginger Arndorfer was the substitute host.

A neighboring town was in an uproar about a bar wanting to bring in strippers. I observed that you’d have to pay a cover charge to be offended. A flustered Ginger tried to change the subject, but Tom and I gleefully clung to the issue like a dog to a pork chop, or a baby to a nipple.

By the time the show was over, Ginger was red-faced and steaming and ratings were up. When we walked out of the studio, her husband was waiting for us in the lobby. He’d raced in chivalrously from the ranch, where he had been bench-pressing heifers, to defend her honor.

As Sir Arndorfer glowered down on me, Secrest stealthily put on his coat and hat and tip-toed out. Tom has never been noted for his feats of valor.

“You’re not going anywhere until you apologize to my wife,” the brave knight spake.

“Well, you’re going to be waiting a long time,” I said.

Because my mouth is tougher than the rest of me.

The next week, I was in “Apology Corner,” a long-running segment of the program, during which we were supposed to make amends for the things we’d said the week before. We had a sponsor and everything.

I said I was sorry women faced so much discrimination. A guy can walk around shirtless and a woman can’t? It doesn’t seem right. I mean, man-boobs are a thing.

For the record, the Chick-fil-A franchisee has apologized, too.

For an advanced country, we’re pretty uptight. And some North Dakotans are even uptighter. Cohabitation outside of marriage has only been legal here for 11 years and, even then, only as long as you keep your breasts in their holsters.

Maybe we should loosen up, like the Europeans. They’re naked all the time. Well, not the doughy, pasty-skinned British, but they should think about it. It would distract attention from their teeth.

© Tony Bender, 2018

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Secret Ministry Of Frost

Although this is a time of fallow in the yard, there is beauty everywhere, for those who pause to look. The hoary white bits coat everything and the air is still.

It makes me think of this poem, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Here are the first and last few lines.

“Frost at Midnight”

The Frost performs its secret ministry,

Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry

Came loud–and hark, again! loud as before

Or if the secret ministry of frost

Shall hang them up in silent icicles,

Quietly shining to the quiet Moon. 

Last night, there was a luminous crescent moon low on the southwestern horizon. On the owl nest front here at Red Oak House, there is nothing yet to report. In time, I’m confident that there will be inhabitants. The feeders bustle with winter visitors and squirrels.

Our Red Oak tree was front-page news Monday morning in the Bismarck Tribune, and I’ve had so many cheerful comments about it as I’ve gone here and there. I’d like to see the city put in a sidewalk there, after this news!

My research took me again to the State Archives at the Heritage Center. The Capitol grounds are just as lovely with today’s frosty coating. I wrestled with microfilm and found what I was looking for, departing with a sense of satisfaction. Thirty-two cents and some time was all it took. That and the dedication of the good folks who work there. Many thanks.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — The Refinery Needs A Site Review

A pair of former Democratic-NPL state senators challenged the North Dakota Health Department to demand a site review by the State’s Public Service Commission before issuing an air pollution permit allowing Meridian Energy Group to build a refinery three miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park at a marathon public hearing by the Department Wednesday night.

Former Sen. Connie Triplett of Grand Forks told Health Department administrators near the end of a four-hour public meeting in Dickinson that they should attach a condition to the permit if they issued it, stating that the permit to build the Davis refinery would only be valid if the company submitted to a full site review by the PSC. And former Sen. Tracy Potter of Bismarck went a step further, saying the Health Department should just put the permit application on hold, and not consider it, until the PSC reviews the site.

Damn, I wish I could get rid of the word “former” in front of those two senators’ names. Out of the 40 or so people testifying on issuing an air pollution permit to the company at Wednesday’s public hearing, their Legislative experience showed their understanding of the government processes that could be brought into play before a refinery is built on the national park’s border.

To review: North Dakota has a law that says any energy conversion facility, such as a refinery, that is going to process more than 50,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) needs to undergo a site review by the Public Service Commission to “ensure the location, construction, and operation of energy conversion facilities … will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the welfare of the citizens of this state …”

Further, it says “The policy of this state is to site energy conversion facilities … in an orderly manner compatible with environmental preservation and the efficient use of resources. Sites and routes must be selected to minimize adverse human and environmental impact …” (emphasis added)

To get around that requirement, Meridian now says it is going to process only 49,500 barrels per day, a sleazy, transparent move to avoid having the PSC tell them it this is a lousy place for a refinery and that Meridian should put it somewhere else where it won’t detract from our national park.

Meridian’s number of 49,500 bpd is 99 percent of the PSC’s jurisdiction limit of 50,000 bpd. Fifty thousand barrels is 2.1 million gallons. 49,500 barrels is 2.079 million, just 21,000 gallons less than the threshold for regulation. So Meridian’s tactic is to stay just 1 percent under the threshold for regulation. It would be a laughable move by the refinery people if it weren’t for the fact that by staying just barely under the threshold, THERE IS NOTHING STOPPING MERIDIAN FROM PUTTING AN OIL REFINERY BESIDE THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK.

I can’t shout that loud enough. Nothing stopping them except, of course, issuance of an air pollution permit, which was the matter at hand at Wednesday night’s public hearing. And that’s why Triplett and Potter’s requests are so important. Because in its initial review, the Health Department says it thinks that the refinery could come in under the pollution limits allowed by the federal Clean Air Act to protect the Class I Air Quality Status of a nearby national park.

Now whether we believe that — the Meridian people haven’t said much that is believable so far in this process — Triplett and Potter pointed out that this is just one very narrow — albeit very important — look at whether the refinery should be built there. North Dakota state government needs to take a holistic approach to siting something as big as this — and there’s no doubt this is big, the biggest industrial plant to be built in our state since the Great Plains Coal Gasification Plant near Beulah 35 years ago, which at the time, was labeled the largest construction project in North America.

That’s what the PSC siting process brings. A look at the big picture.  And then once the PSC has completed its site review, the Health Department, the Water Commission, the Game and Fish Department, the State Parks Department, the Agriculture commissioner, the Tourism director, the Transportation director, maybe some other directors and, most importantly, the governor need to sit down around a table and decide what’s really good for the state, and  if this is really the best place to put an oil refinery. That’s how state government should work, whether we trust all those people or not. I guess we have to trust them, since they’re in charge here right now.

I don’t think anybody’s questioning whether we should have an oil refinery in North Dakota. Of course we should. As Triplett has pointed out, it is certainly more environmentally — and economically, I’ll add — desirable to refine oil here and ship a finished product out in a pipeline than it is to ship out raw crude in a pipeline and then ship refined gasoline and diesel fuel back here in trucks or another pipeline.

So the only real question is, where should the refinery be? Public Service Commissioners Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus pushed hard at Meridian officials at a meeting last month to get them to consider other locations away from the park but to no avail. Barring that, they asked politely to be allowed to conduct a formal site review to “ensure the location, construction and operation of the refinery… will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and the welfare of the citizens of this state …”

Meridian officials told them to stuff it. The 49,500 bpd refinery is under the threshold for a site review, they said, and they are complying with the law. Well, yeah 1 percent under the threshold, and in terms of impact on the environment and the welfare of our citizens, that’s a pretty slim — and sleazy — standard they set for themselves.

In fact, it prompted PSC Chairman Randy Christmann to tell me and a few others after the meeting that he won’t be surprised if some legislator introduces a bill in the next legislative session to get rid of the threshold altogether and make all energy conversion facilities of any size subject to a site review. Good for him. Christmann is not a big government regulation guy, but I think he’d like that. In the case of Meridian, that would be closing the barn door after the cows are out, but it certainly would keep this from happening again in the future.

Shortly after that meeting between Meridian and the PSC, when Meridian snubbed its nose at three elected officials, I sent a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum asking him to call Meridian CEO William Prentice into his office and ask him politely — CEO to CEO — to move the refinery away from the park. I think I’ll just put my letter at the end of this post because it’s been a month now, and I’ve not had a response from the governor.

I’m disappointed in that. It used to be in North Dakota, when you wrote a letter to an elected official, you got a response in a pretty timely manner. I worked for a governor for eight years, and I don’t recall a constituent letter ever going unanswered. Especially on a matter as important as this. I’ll write a little more about that subject in a few days.

Meanwhile, subsequent to Wednesday’s Health Department hearing, a public comment period on this issue remains open until Jan. 26. Then the Health Department will read all the public comments and respond to them, I think. Often the response is just to thank you for commenting and telling you they are taking your comments into consideration, but at least you know your comments have been read by someone. I submitted mine a few weeks ago and shared them with you in this space. You can read them by going to my old blog. I urge you to join me in commenting. I’m putting the address for your comments at the end of this post, too.

I’m adding to mine by strongly urging the Health Department to take the advice of Sens. Potter and Triplett and attach conditions to any permit, requiring Meridian to undergo a site review. Triplett, an environmental attorney, knows North Dakota law, and she says they can attach conditions to a permit. There’s precedent for that, even.

Way back in the 1970s, when a company named Michigan Wisconsin Pipeline Co. asked for a state water permit to construct some coal gasification plants here (one of which ended up being the Great Plains Synfuels Plant I mentioned earlier), the North Dakota Water Commission attached a series of conditions to the permit, which ended up being the beginning of North Dakota’s Mined Land Reclamation Laws, now the strictest reclamation laws in the country.

I think the conditions were challenged in court, and they held up. We’re all winners because of that. Strict regulations were followed, the coal gasification plant got built, and it’s still operating successfully today.

And I’m going to go a step further and ask the governor to strongly advise the Health Department — they work for him, after all — to attach the condition of a site review to the permit, if they issue one. Or to just tell the company they’re holding the permit until a site review is done. If Meridian is confident they’ve got the right project in the right place, they won’t have any problem undergoing a site review.

Let me repeat that.

If Meridian is confident it has got the right project in the right place, it won’t have any problem undergoing a site review.

One more time.

If Meridian is confident it has got the right project in the right place, it won’t have any problem undergoing a site review.

Here’s the address for your comments, to be submitted to the Health Department by Jan. 26. You might want to use the line “If Meridian is confident they’ve got the right project in the right place, they won’t have any problem undergoing a site review.”

Terry O’Clair, P.E., Director

Division of Air Quality

ND Dept. of Health

918 E. Divide Ave.

Bismarck,ND 58501-1947

And here’s my letter to the governor:

 December 21, 2017

Dear Gov. Burgum,

Late in the afternoon on this shortest day of the year, my mood is as dark as the 5 p.m. sky. I close my eyes and think back to the meeting between the PSC and William Prentice from Meridian Energy Group the other day, and I see him smirking as he says “We are going to comply with the law.”

So that’s what it’s come to for Meridian. It’s about the law. It’s not at all about anything North Dakotans might feel about having a refinery smack up against their national park. A national park named for our Greatest Conservation President.

“If these stupid North Dakota hicks are willing to put that kind of a loophole in their siting law, I’m going to use it,” the snarky Californian says.

So now, Governor, it’s up to you. You need to get that asshole in your office and tell him he needs to move that refinery. You can do that. He’ll respect you, a fellow businessman and North Dakota’s CEO.

Randy and Julie and Brian did their best, but they carried no authority. They’re not used to dealing with this kind of character. “I don’t see why you don’t just go through the siting process” won’t work with this guy. It’s kind of like the salesman who says “I don’t suppose you’d like to buy some insurance, would you?”

Please, Governor, call this guy up and get him in your office. And tell him to move the damn refinery.

Please let me know if you are willing to do this, so I can stop writing about it (and you) for a while. Even if it does no good, I need to know that at least you were willing to try.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

Jim Fuglie