North Dakota has played a lot of catch-up during the first years of the Bakken oil and gas boom. Roads and bridges were not up to the demands of the traffic driven by the energy industry. Housing was short, as well as numbers of classrooms. There weren’t enough sheriff’s deputies, troopers or police. Or teachers and roughnecks. The state poured money into western North Dakota, filling the gaps, beefing up infrastructure, expanding medical services and adding to the ranks of law enforcement.
It was intense and stressful, and remains edgy.
Fortunately, oil- and gas-related taxes also fill state coffers. Still, it was incredibly hard for cities, counties and the state to stay ahead of the curve in western North Dakota.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple has begun a new assessment of needs in the oil patch. And the Legislature, via the interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee, has hired KLJ, a regional engineering and planning company, to project the future of North Dakota’s energy industry and its impact on the state.
We like the idea of state government getting beyond catch-up. The people of western North Dakota deserve a better response in a challenging time.
Williston Mayor Ward Koeser told the governor that during the legislative session, “The need didn’t fully get met. It’s very intense. The needs we have today are different than when the Legislature met.” In other words, the situation on the ground in western North Dakota is evolving. It’s not like Williston isn’t engaged. Koeser said, “We’ve got a lot of skin ... and blood in the game.”
The governor’s survey and KLJ’s work will help develop state budget and policy responses in the future.
The state is also playing catch-up with natural gas flaring. Collection of natural gas hasn’t been able to keep up with drilling despite the investment of enormous amounts of money by energy companies. In that regard, a task force that originated with the Industrial Commission, and involving the oil industry, will make recommendations for a comprehensive state response to natural gas flaring of nearly 30 percent of production.
These efforts, we hope, will help North Dakota get caught up. It’s critical. Do the surveys and studies, but more importantly, covert that work into constructive action on behalf of North Dakotans.