Earlier today, I received a push notification on my phone saying that all boil orders were lifted in northwestern North Dakota. In case you missed it, four days ago, a water line that provides water to Crosby, Noonan, Fortuna and Columbus in Burke and Divide counties broke, forcing the residents of those communities into a “boil order”.
These parts of the state and its residents have been getting hammered by the growth of the oil industry. Once one of the least populated parts of the state, they have been overrun by new development. In the past month, that corner of the state has been home to not one but two oil and brine spills. The area has also been home to multiple dumpsites of radioactive “oil socks”.
The bottom line is there is some very real and well documented environmental damage being done by the oil industry in North Dakota. However, when people question the controlling political party in our state about the harmful effects to our environment as a result of this growth, we are accused of being anti-growth an anti-oil.
That is not acceptable.
I want to be very clear about something, I have never been against oil development in North Dakota, and overall, I have seen the growth of the state’s population and economy as a very good thing. To be very blunt, I think North Dakota is a better place for my kids than it was when I was growing up.
I also want to make it very clear that I don’t believe that most conservatives want to see the environment destroyed. The problem with modern conservative ideology is that they are genetically encoded to believe that it is not the place of the government to regulate industry.
Even when science can prove the harm of industry on a society, Conservatives have learned to attack the science.
This ideology comes directly from the mother of the modern conservative philosophical system, Ayn Rand. Rand, who was a several pack a day smoker refused to believe smoking was bad for you. She was quoted as saying the “unscientific and irrational nature of the statistical evidence” that said smoking caused cancer should be ignored. She outwardly spoke of the befits of smoking and encouraged her followers to smoke. After all, it was a harmless activity that was only being questioned by liberal studies.
Nevertheless, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, Rand quit smoking. Even then she refused to publically admit that her previous statements about smoking were wrong.
Because given a choice between preventing cancer and protecting industry, industry must win.
I worry that philosophical conundrum is the key that opens the gate to allow our environment to be victimized by industry today. Our North Dakota Industrial Commission and Public Service Commission (PSC) are dominated by conservative Republicans. This is why the PSC, the organization who has statutory authority over utilities, telecommunications, railroads, grain elevators, and pipeline safety, has the audacity to waste resources writing advocacy letters to the EPA about proposed regulations.
Let that sink in for a minute. The state agency responsible for enforcing environmental laws is writing letters to the federal government asking for less regulation.
Because before they are regulators, they are Republicans, and the role of Republican elected officials is to stay out of the way of industry.
Meanwhile, it is unsafe to drink the water in parts our state, our land can no longer be farmed, and radioactive materials are being left all over the country side.