A burn too big to ice

Word tell is the rail lines are clogged with crude from North Dakota. The trains run so hot and so fast, and at such a volume, that Amtrak has to cancel passenger runs on the Empire Builder because BNSF can’t schedule them through.

Now, hot on the heels of the Lac-Mégantic Bakken Bombing is another train explosion out by Casselton. Now the first and deadlier explosion ought to have been enough, but how about now people seriously consider:

  1. Slowing this oil jazz down a tick — Is the oil going anywhere?
  2. Building pipelines — actually capable of hauling away North Dakota production
  3. Paying for the damages — sure is more than enough money going around, after all.

At least the North Dakota Department of Health is willing to admit that breathing burning crude may be hazardous to your health.  But not, apparently, to count the disaster on its environmental disasters reporting page.

Transparently lopsided

Just thirty-six sources provided the majority of PAC funds in Minnesota over the past seven years, according to the StarTribune.

One wonders on these last fundraising days of the year, when e-mail inboxes are clogged with unusually large numbers of solicitations, just how much the little guy counts, when parties and candidates can score so much bigger from a handful of key players.

Provincial byelections due in Manitoba

The Free Press reports that elections are dropping January 28 in Arthur-Virden and Morris, both vacant seats previously held by Progressive Conservatives. Barring upsets, the races will be truer tests of the PC riding associations than of the candidates themselves;

Arthur-Virden must host a fair and open nominating contest or risk a repeat of the Brandon-Souris race where disgruntled ex-nominees split the vote too close for comfort.

In Morris, the PCs are going to have to come up with a candidate who can repudiate an ugly trend around town.

No permit? No problem!

No permit? No problem!  Run a pipeline without the proper paperwork for two years in North Dakota and you’re not likely to see even a slap-on-the-wrist sort of fine.

Looks like the proliferation of wildcat pipelining hasn’t put much of a dent in the huge burn-off taking place in the west.  The year ending in November 2013 saw 2.9 million tons of (counted) gas flared – a tragic waste of energy and resources.

KVLY segment starts firestorm of recrimination

So many of the laws and rules we make — especially about our schools — are paper tigers that are impractical to enforce. That was on display in a recent KVLY expose that had a reporter waltzing into area schools unaccosted.  Couldn’t anyone else?  How is it not in the public interest to check up on these things?  To have an open debate about the matter?

Bear in mind that this is an organzation whose headline today is about childproofing your home over Christmas.  The sheer narrowness it expects from its viewership is telling. But a news organization has as much right to begin from the position of a paranoid parent as I do as a leftish blowhard.

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HealthCare.gov recovery sluggish

Out of 2250 applications, only 265 people have managed to get insurance through HealthCare.gov in North Dakota – a completion rate of 11.8%. The application itself does not seem to be difficult to complete anymore, but other site subsystems are still wrecked.

Now there’s about 40,000 more people who need to get into the site in just a few weeks.  That hardly seems likely.

Grand Forks paying for Devil’s Lake pollution

A new water treatment plant is needed in Grand Forks, in part to deal with the increased levels of pollutants in the Red River since the opening of the Devil’s Lake outlet.  If North Dakota had properly treated the outlet water at the source, downstream taxpayers wouldn’t be footing the bill now.  And our state would probably have been spared a lawsuit or two.

Tim Horton’s opens to crowds in Grand Forks

Grand Forks got a little more Canadian today, with Tim Horton’s opening up on 42nd Street directly across from the Canad Inns.  Now Forxites can buy coffee and donuts 24 hours a day without having to drive up to Winkler!

I stopped by for a quick double-double and a cruller earlier, and captured the oeuvre of opening day:  A long line-up, but a positive mood in the crowd!  Minor glitches cropped up under the heavy demand.  Canadian bankcards, which rely on the chip-and-PIN Interac Direct Payment system, aren’t yet being accepted properly.

Given everything that’s happening in the food industry across the United States, it’s worth noting where your Timmy’s staff is on the totem pole.  Although the prices for coffee and donuts are almost identical to the prices in Winnipeg, the wages Timmy’s pays its American workers aren’t.  Though every bit as friendly and hardworking as their counterparts across Manitoba, they earn 24% less.

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UND “closes” during blizzard

We had a bit of weather over the week, nothing too terrible, but it was enough to keep high school debate teams off the highways.  For a little bit there, Snow Day fever threatened to take over, but ultimately it was mostly business as usual.

There was one big, puzzling exception: UND shut down at 6pm on Wednesday night.  I’m really not sure what the University hoped to accomplish by closing after business hours and after the entire blizzard had already happened, aside from testing the announcements API on its website.