Remember Lac-Mégantic

Remember Lac-Mégantic.  Ron Schalow does. He’s petitioning the state to finally do something about explosive Bakken crude.

I know a lot of North Dakotans aren’t exactly jazzed about our well-to-do Canadian neighbours, who still have a middle class and the spending money to overwork our underpaid retailers.  Fewer still must pay any attention at all to the distant province of Québec, but North Dakota has an important connection with them:

We killed 57 Québecois with our oil. We are guilty of negligent mass homicide.

We killed them because we failed to do anything about natural gas flaring.  We killed them because we failed to build pipelines.  We killed them because we failed to regulate our oil development, to keep it within the bounds of our infrastructure, to keep oil development focused on the public interest and public safety.

There’s plenty of blame to go around:  The oil companies don’t want to pay for pipelines.  Or insurance and/or cleanup thereof.  There’s Enbridge in particular, whose dumb idea of a tar sands pipeline muddied the waters for debate of further pipelines when North Dakota clearly needs massive capacity for itself.

Then there’s the landowners, who understandably don’t want oil spills in their backyard, but who collectively place our state in the philosophical position of valuing the safety of a relative handful of property owners against the vast majority of citizens, who live in cities built around active rail lines.

There’s heaps of blame for the state government, which not only failed to regulate or rein in anything about the oil boom, but has continued to fail to take responsibility for the consequences.  Even as North Dakota voters contemplate a measure that would create an environmental cleanup fund, North Dakota’s leaders have failed to determine the budget for cleanup in the future, or plan for it in any way.

Finally, the Industrial Commission.  The role of the state Industrial Commission doesn’t begin and end at yea-or-theoretical-nay on drilling permits.  When the state has a clear need for industrial implements, and is at the mercy of out-of-state interests for dealing with the trade of a major commodity, it is the responsibility of the Industrial Commission to develop that infrastructure and take beneficial state ownership of the problem and profits.  North Dakota could have a state owned pipeline, a state-owned degassing facility, a state-owned petroleum refinery.  And there would clearly be profits, which like the State Mill, would benefit all North Dakotans.

The oil barons are scared enough of Ron Schalow’s effort that they have begun mounting a disinformation campaign, still attempting to lie to the public when Bakken crude has been physically and scientifically demonstrated to be less safe to ship by rail than degassed crude oils. Dragging our feet and failing to be responsible for the problems we have is not going to bring down the Bakken body count.

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