Zinke Visits North Dakota But Puts Oil Execs Above Residents Affected by His Rule-Making

Two Dakota Resource Council affiliates invite Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to their areas, but both are ignored.

On May 22-23 Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke visited North Dakota to speak at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck. Upon hearing about Zinke’s visit, two Dakota Resource Council affiliates sent him invitations to get a first-hand look at effects of rules which he presides over.

Invite to Fort Berthold

Fort Berthold POWER sent a letter to Zinke inviting him to tour oil and gas activity on Fort Berthold, so the Secretary could see the flares and smell the venting and leaking methane that is the backdrop of their daily lives. Zinke is in the process of rolling back the BLM methane rule, which if rolled back will have real impacts on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Studies have shown that methane and natural gas in the air cause increased risks of asthma, respiratory infections, cancer and neurological damage. Medical test have shown that families on the reservation display the same rates of methane related disease as the drillers themselves. The rollbacks will also limit the amount of money affected communities will get from royalties of the gas that is wasted, rather than captured and sold at market value*.

Zinke’s staff did not respond to the invite.

Invite to Davis Refinery

oil and gas threat to ND
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke pretending to care about national parks.

DRC’s Dickinson area affiliate, Badlands Area Resource Council, also sent a letter to Secretary Zinke inviting him to visit the proposed site of the Davis Refinery, recently permitted for construction just three miles from the border of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

After claiming to be a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican”, it’s a surprise that he wouldn’t want to weigh in on the placement of the biggest threat to this iconic national park. Lying southwest of the park, prevailing winds will blow crude oil refinery emissions into the park, polluting some of the cleanest air in the continental United States. The air will pose a risk to wildlife in and around the park including bison, wild horses, elk, pronghorn, and deer, as well as over 180 species of birds, and small mammals like prairie dogs. Emissions may also mar the epic views which can go for miles with smog and particulate releases, not to mention the sprawling skyline of piping and smokestacks on the horizon.

Again, Zinke’s staff did respond to the invite.

What did Zinke do instead?

Rather than taking DRC up on its invites, Zinke instead visited Teddy Roosevelt Park with Governor Doug Burgum,  neglecting to stop at the refinery site. Zinke also did an oil well tour with Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm. And lastly, Zinke met with tribal leaders in Bismarck rather than visiting them on their tribal lands like Fort Berthold — some of the most impacted areas in the state. It is also almost certain that Zinke met with many other oil and gas executives like Hamm during his time at the Petroleum Conference and his travels around North Dakota. Unfortunately, the Secretary finds oil executives to be more important than the people being directly impacted by the oil and gas industry.

Regardless, if Zinke ever wants to take up Fort Berthold POWER and BARC on their invites, they will be ready to show him the impacts of oil and gas development first-hand.

*The Government Accountability Office found in 2010 that 40 percent of the natural gas vented and flared on federal lands could be captured cheaply with technology that was cost-effective and readily available. Without the Waste Prevention Rule, companies pay fewer royalties on the gas they waste which means taxpayers lose out on millions of dollars in revenue every year — including funding for schools and infrastructure projects.