North Dakota needs to find moral compass

North Dakota needs to find moral compass

North Dakota state Capitol

The North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck is offset by flowers in full bloom in June 2018.

North Dakota seems to be losing its way in key areas: care of the elderly, the environment and the oversight of government, to name a few. Our moral compass has gotten out of whack.

This year has seen a number of instances in which our leaders have failed us.

The state has allowed flaring to get out of control. Instead of the oil industry meeting the goal of 12% of natural gas flared, the percentage soared to 24%. There were lengthy explanations for why it happened, but no reasons for why it wasn’t prevented.

It was recently disclosed that the North Dakota Health Department didn’t follow its own policies in updating the size of a 2015 pipeline spill at a natural gas processing plant. There are questions about whether quarterly inspections of the site have been conducted.

Also on the environmental front, the Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation taking pore space rights away from landowners.

Last month, the Tribune reported that the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating the state’s in-home care and nursing home placement since 2015. The governor’s office said the state’s involved in negotiating a settlement with the Department of Justice.

As the Legislature was winding down in April it passed legislation, signed by governor, placing restrictions on performance audits conducted by State Auditor Josh Gallion. An opinion by the attorney general left the situation in limbo. The audits by Gallion’s office, which it continues to conduct, have been informative and, in some cases, eye-opening.

The responsibility for correcting these problems falls in large part to the governor’s office. Gov. Doug Burgum inherited some of these issues, but it’s up to him to deal with them. It’s unfortunate the Department of Justice investigation wasn’t made public earlier. It might have resulted in action during the 2017 legislative session when spending in many areas was slashed.

It’s unfortunate it takes a federal investigation to prompt the state to take action to help the often vulnerable elderly population and those with disabilities. The Tribune editorial board doubts spending would have been increased without pressure from the federal government.

The Tribune has gone on the record opposing the state’s efforts to reverse a long-held federal opinion that the Three Affiliated Tribes owns the riverbed rights to the Missouri River. The effort to change the opinion is a money grab.

The Tribune also believes it’s time to get serious about oversight. Oil patch spills and leaks need thorough investigations and timely inspections. The days of wasting natural gas through flaring need to end even if it means limiting production on occasion.

The state’s priorities should be the welfare of the citizens, protection of the environment and unfettered oversight by the auditor, ethics commission and others.

Burgum gets high marks for tackling the addiction and drug crisis, seeking justice reforms and efforts to reorganize higher education. His steps to reinvent government are commendable, but he needs to enforce policies already in place.

He needs to take the state to a higher moral ground, a level we believe the citizens of North Dakota aspire to. Yes, the Legislature can be difficult at times, but Burgum must find a way to lead them in the right direction. Our present course is to moral bankruptcy.



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