State Senator: "We’ll Shut Down Everything In Western North Dakota"


“I wonder if North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was expecting the uproar that his proposed ‘extraordinary places’ regulations for oil-drilling permits issued by the state Industrial Commission have inspired?”

That’s what I wrote in a column published in the Grand Forks Herald yesterday. As an illustration of just how loud that uproar has gotten, consider these words from state Senator Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, who is a western lawmaker that has quickly become one of the most outspoken critics of the proposal. Dickinson Press reporter Brian Horwath quotes Bowman who spoke at a meeting of the North Dakota Farm Bureau in Dickinson.

Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman, one of the most outspoken critics of the proposal in recent weeks, took it a step further.

“This is an insult to landowners,” Bowman said. “The biggest part of the area they are looking at is in my district. I can say this: If they ram this down our throats, we’ll shut down everything in western North Dakota. I’ll get a group of landowners together and shut down hunting on a huge area of private land. You can call me a radical, but that might be the last alternative we have.” …

“This is probably the biggest issue that I’ve seen in my life,” Bowman said. “I found out about all this the day before the last Industrial Commission meeting a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve spent about four hours on the phone with the governor, the ag commissioner and the attorney general. Doug Goehring (North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner and member of the three-person Industrial Commission) said he is with me 100 percent, but I think the key to this is what the governor decides.”

Those are some strong words, but accurately portray the feelings of many in western North Dakota who grow weary of hand-wringing over conservation and environmental impact issues from people who are far away from western North Dakota. Including many in the state’s eastern-centric media.

And then there’s the fundamental question of why the public should get to comment on energy development occurring on private land. As Steve Holen, the President of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties writes elsewhere here on SAB, “If we can force these conditions on property owners in oil country, what is to stop the state from deciding that they should tell farmers where to put grain handling equipment near the Sheyenne River or Pembina Gorge? Or is it just a matter of time before the state forces ranchers to move their operations away from scenic byways?”

I think many in the west (including myself) are tired of our area being treated as though it were good for nothing else than to serve as a playground for tourism and hunting for people who aren’t from here.