Media Needs To Expose Partisan Motivations Of Oil Policy Critics


The New York Times hatchet job on North Dakota’s oil boom featured a man by the name of David Schwalbe who is critical of the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s handling of a s0-called mega-unit in which he owns mineral rights. Today, in following up on the Times piece, the Bismarck Tribune quotes Schwalbe and his complaints.

David Schwalbe of Bismarck was profiled in the story, which highlights how he and his siblings own mineral rights under the family homestead in western North Dakota. It details his opposition to a proposed consolidated mega-unit that included the area where his mineral rights lay from being approved by the Industrial Commission. The proposed mega-unit was approved in late 2011.

“It’s very important. I don’t think the people here really understand what’s going on,” Schwalbe said.

Mr. Schwalbe is, of course, entitled to his opinions. But if publications like the Tribune are going to give space to his criticisms, they should be transparent about what some of his motivations may be.

Schwalbe’s quote above was positioned as a rebuttal to a claim from Governor Jack Dalrymple’s office about the inaccuracy of the Times story. Not mentioned is the fact that Schwalbe’s wife, Ellen Chaffee, was on the ballot opposite Dalrymple in 2012 when she was the Lieutenant Governor candidate alongside former lawmaker Ryan Taylor.

Now, that fact doesn’t necessarily make Schwalbe wrong in his criticisms, but it is something readers of articles such as the Tribune’s story ought to be made aware of.

Leaving that sort of information out does the story a disservice, because an important part of this issue is whether or not there’s a real problem or if the critics are just ideologues motivated by politics.