Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 17, 2014 at 11:39 am •  Published: July 17, 2014
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Minot Daily News, July 12, 2014

Saltwater spill: Enough already

It's a story that keeps occurring with far too much regularity in northwestern North Dakota: About 1 million gallons of saltwater has leaked from a pipeline, with some of the water leaking into a bay that leads to a lake that provides drinking water to nearby residents.

The locations and details of the latest oil industry related accident could be interchanged with previous incidents, whether the spill is saltwater, oil or some other product. But the effects are the same, both to the environment and to the psyche of the residents of this state.

In the latest case, the saltwater, which is at least 10 times saltier than seawater, has killed or damaged some trees, bushes and grass, although there could be more damage once a more thorough investigation is completed. We've heard the stories before, and quite honestly, they're getting old, especially for those residents most affected.

The oil industry and the state officials who regulate the industry simply must do a better job of protecting not only the residents of this state, but the glorious natural environment that makes North Dakota a great place to live. We know that's not an easy task, but it simply has to be done. We can't keep reading about saltwater spills and oil leaks week after week and expect the people of this state to stand by and watch.

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Bismarck Tribune, July 16, 2014

Mitigating spills' impact a top priority

It would be difficult to classify the early July saltwater spill near Mandaree that leaked 24,000 barrels of brine, a byproduct of oil production, as the first wake-up call to state officials.

In 2006, an equivalent amount of saltwater leaked into and contaminated Charbonneau Creek in what has been called the state's worst environmental disaster. In 2011 near Mohall, nearly 8,000 barrels leaked, affecting 25 acres of crop land and wetlands.

Cleanup efforts at Charbonneau Creek continue to this day, and it will likely take years to return the impacted area as close to its original state as possible. It is estimated that work at the site will likely continue for another decade.

In 2012, there were 141 saltwater pipeline leaks in North Dakota. Of those, 99 resulted in approximately 8,000 barrels of saltwater released. Roughly three-quarters of that was recovered.

In 2013, 74 pipeline leaks occurred, spilling 22,000 barrels, including 17,000 barrels from a single accident in Bowman County.

State leaders and legislators have had ample warning already that these accidents can and will occur. While not entirely preventable, steps can be taken to reduce them by putting in place more stringent rules that would include pipeline monitoring systems and more frequent inspection of pipelines.

Saltwater, a naturally occurring byproduct of oil production, is toxic and harmful to the environment. Between 10 and 30 times saltier than seawater, it ruins the crop land and pasture land it comes in contact with. It's not difficult to grasp the seriousness of the issue.

Despite that, during the 2013 legislative session lawmakers on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly defeated a bill (86-4) that would have mandated flow meters and cutoff switches on pipelines carrying saltwater.