Berg Column: Who Is Looking Out For The Little Guy In North Dakota?


Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks


Good evening, I’m Chris Berg, thanks for joining us. Tonight’s Point of View topic: Who is looking out for the little guy in North Dakota? Let me repeat tonight’s topic because I want you to take a moment right now and answer this question at home. As you think about what is happening in the state of North Dakota, all the cash going into the state coffers, all the abundance that we are currently experiencing. Who, in your opinion, is looking out for the little guy? You and me.

I bring this up tonight because last night we had a great show with ND Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk and Rep Mark Owens talking about transporting oil in our great state as well as natural gas flaring. We had a ton of great feedback from you last night, and I will share some of that with you in a moment.

First let me ask you this. After the Casselton catastrophe, and the train wreck in Quebec that killed 47 people, do you find yourself thinking twice as you sit idle at a railway crossing? Do you feel safe sitting there? I know my wife is now thinking twice, because she said that to me after last night’s show. Think about this for a moment. The city of Quebec is roughly half a million people, and 47 people were killed by a train car explosion filled with Bakken crude. 47 people dead. Now, the FM metro area is one of the fastest growing metros in the midwest as we approach a quarter of a million people. Do you know how many trains roll through the FM area each day? Roughly a 135 trains go through the FM metro area every day. That my friends is a lot of train traffic, and it begins to cause people alarm when they see pictures like this one from the Quebec train wreck:

and then of course closer to home, we all have seen this mushroom cloud image from the Casselton catastrophe.

So when you see these images, do you feel it is pretty fair to say that Bakken crude is fairly flammable and volatile? Of course, and I am not a chemist, and my eyes tell me when I see a 250 foot mushroom cloud shoot out of a rail car filled with Bakken Crude it is a fairly flammable substance.

So seeing this and knowing that we have a TON of train traffic now all over North Dakota, who is looking out for you and your family’s safety? Who’s job is that in North Dakota? Some might say that one person who job it is is the Director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Lynn Helms. He is basically the head of the oil and gas division in North Dakota. Now after seeing that picture from the Quebec explosion, what do you think Lynn Helms would say about the explosiveness of Bakken crude?

Here is a comment he made back on December 13th:

Helms said some also are trying to raise fears about moving Bakken crude by rail, after a train carrying it derailed and exploded in the Canadian province of Quebec in July, killing 47 people. He said there’s a plan to develop a white paper through the Pipeline Authority that will analyze Bakken crude and try “to dispel this myth that it is somehow an explosive really dangerous thing to have traveling up and down your rail lines.”


Myth? Did you see the explosion videos?

This ‘myth’ as you say is VERY real for the people of Quebec and now Casselton. Let me ask you this? Why in the world, after seeing what happened in Quebec, would the head of the ND Oil and Gas division want to write a white paper that would be distributed to the public dispelling any ‘myths’ about the obvious explosiveness of Bakken oil? I will let you at home answer that question for yourself tonight. By the way, we are expecting to have Mr. Helms on the show later this week or early next week, so be sure and stay tuned for that.

Last night, we also discussed the natural gas flaring that is taking place in North Dakota. One of the things that came up last night was a recent decision by the ND Public Service Commission to NOT fine a particular company:

A company that operated a natural gas pipeline for more than two years without a permit will not face a fine from the state Public Service Commission.
Under state law, willfully building an energy conversion facility or transmission line without a permit is a Class A misdemeanor. A company can be fined up to $10,000 per day per violation, not to exceed a total of $200,000.

Now to be fair, there is some grey area for this company because the state of North Dakota has not done a great job regulating what is considered a gas gathering line and a gas transmission line, and that needs to be improved for state regulators. But here is where many of you got upset last night.

Here is what Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann had to say about not upholding the law and fining this company::

Commissioner Randy Christmann said fining the company (Hiland) might deter other companies from considering investment in North Dakota.

That comment got many of you upset, and many of you shared your Point of View with us, so I wanted to share a couple of them with you tonight:

another one of you text us this:

We had a lot more great feedback on this topic, and I feel like this is where you and me, the little guy, get upset. If I broke the law and pleaded ignorance, they would say too bad and throw the book at me.

These are just two examples of where you and I need to be asking the question, who in North Dakota is looking out for you and me, the little guy? As you can see tonight, the answer to that question may be you and me right here on POV.

And that’s tonight’s point of view…