Don’t be fooled: The Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt National Park will not be spared

Don’t be fooled: The Badlands and TR National Park will not be spared by Clay Jenkinson, November 25, 2012, The Bismark Tribune
By now, everyone is beginning to understand that the Bakken oil boom is going to carpet virtually all of western North Dakota with an industrial latticework that is going to transform the way we see our vast and open landscape — and ourselves. Industry experts are talking about 40,000 to 60,000 wells, plus storage facilities, water plants and reservoirs, railroad spurs and loading facilities, gas plants, broad new four-lane highways in places you never expected to see them and even a couple of gigantic oil refineries. In addition to all of that, there will have to be huge parking lots to store the heavy equipment between runs and side tracks to store all the oil tanker railroad cars that are coming here to carry the wealth of North Dakota elsewhere. (This is the pattern of North Dakota history — we unearth commodities, and send them elsewhere for the value-added processing).

The Badlands will not be spared. The reason that oil development has been lighter in the Badlands than on North Dakota’s broad plains, so far, is that leases on private lands are for three years, while leases on federal public lands are for 10 years. Because there is essentially an “infinite” amount of shale oil in every direction from the epicenter in Stanley-Watford City, the oil companies have very intelligently been developing the low hanging fruit first, and drilling on private lands first because it’s “use it or lose it” on those expensive oil leases, and three years is not a very long time to schedule drilling operations. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on all those 10-year leases. In the next couple of years, the oil companies are going to have to start developing their leases on federal lands in an emphatic way. Very soon, our “last best place,” our Wild West, the magnificent, stark, primordial Badlands of North Dakota are going to be transfixed by rigs, storage tanks, pump jacks, new scoria roads and an enormous amount of heavy truck traffic, kicking up dust storms in their wake. Nor is Theodore Roosevelt National Park going to be OK. A few days ago, a senior employee of TRNP took a couple of enlightened guests from Washington, D.C., to Buck Hill, the highest point in the park (south unit) — one of the most beautiful places in North Dakota. From the top of Buck Hill, they saw more than 25 oil wells or other oil-related industrial structures — to the south, to the east, to the north. And this is in the less emphatic phase of Badlands oil development. They returned that same night, in the dark, and from the top of Buck Hill they saw gas flares everywhere they looked — an industrial encirclement along the perimeter of North Dakota’s National Park. One of them said it looked like Iraq after the first Gulf War, when retreating Iraqi troops set the oil wells on fire as a final act of contempt and nihilism.

National parks are places the American people have deliberately set aside as permanent sanctuaries for humans and other animals to seek refuge from the industrial paradigm. The National parks are, as the documentary filmmaker Ken Burns reminds us, “America’s best idea.” If you run industrial activity (noise, dust, odor, visual blight, traffic) right up to the fence lines, you compromise something that depends on solitude and reverence to have its full meaning. [Emphasis added]

This entry was posted in Global Frac News. Bookmark the permalink.