This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has sided with North Dakota and Montana in a dispute over the volatility of Bakken oil. The decision essentially blocks a new Washington state law that placed restrictions on shipments of oil by rail in an attempt to boost safety. North Dakota argued that the law effectively was a ban on Bakken crude. Washington can appeal the decision that federal law preempts its law, but that’s an uphill climb. A study completed by a U.S. Department of Energy lab last fall on the fiery characteristics of oil train crashes also bolsters North Dakota’s case.
The North Dakota State Fair has been canceled for only the second time since becoming the official state fair in 1966. It's the right decision, given that 300,000 people attend the event every summer, and social distancing would be a nightmare. But it means the loss of another entertainment option and an annual tradition for many. It's also a blow to the economy of North Dakota's fourth-largest city. Together, the State Fair and the Norsk Hostfest pump about $90 million into Minot's economy. The Hostfest has been called off this year, too.
About 2,500 people on average turn out for the annual Memorial Day service at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery south of Mandan. That's not a good idea this year due to coronavirus concerns, so the cemetery and North Dakota National Guard have come up with a plan to still hold the service and livestream it so people can pay their respects from afar. The ceremony will be available to watch at ndguard.nd.gov at noon on May 25. It will include all of the usual aspects, from a flyover of Black Hawk helicopters to a 21-gun salute. There also still will be a Memorial Day motorcycle ride, though riders won't stop and gather at the cemetery as they usually do. All in all, it's a smart way to keep people safe while still continuing a tradition that's been around for nearly three decades.
Ranchers are struggling through tough economic times due to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time retail beef prices are inexplicably high. Kintyre cattle feeder and buyer Randy Weigel puts it this way: “The consumer is getting gouged, and it’s not from the rancher.” Attorneys general from 11 Midwestern states including North Dakota are urging the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a federal investigation into what they claim is suspected national price fixing by major meat packers. Price-fixing claims aren't new, and the major meat packers have always rejected them. But as the North Dakota Farmers Union said in a recent statement, "the situation definitely smells rotten."
President Donald Trump isn't forgetting about his promise to the national champion North Dakota State University football team. The team was to visit the White House but “because of the plague we didn’t have those great people,” Trump said while meeting with Gov. Doug Burgum last week. “But we’ll do a rain check.” The team visited the White House in 2019, after winning the title last year. The Bison have won eight of the last nine NCAA Football Championship Subdivision titles.
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