North Dakota Oil Industry Calls Senator Heitkamp a Hypocrite


U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp talks about the prospect of temporarily housing refugee children at the Grand Forks Air Force Base during a recent visit to the Grand Forks Herald Editorial Board. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Earlier today I wrote about Senator Heidi Heitkamp indicating that she’d vote against a Congressional repeal for a BLM rule regulating methane emissions.

These would be emissions that a) the EPA already regulates and b) the BLM has no authority to regulate.

Anyway, Heitkamp did vote against repeal. In fact, she was the deciding vote. The roll call was 49-51 against. Had Heitkamp voted the other way it would have been a tie decided by Vice President Pence.

It was a surprising vote for Heitkamp who is normally a reliable ally for North Dakota industry. The state’s oil industry was pretty surprised by it. They’re basically calling Heitkamp a hypocrite over the vote.

“Just yesterday, Senator Heitkamp applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant the state primacy and regulatory authority over CO2 injection wells and the certainty it would bring for North Dakota energy,” the North Dakota Petroleum Council said in a press release sent out today. “Her decision today is a complete reversal of that stance.”


“We are extremely disappointed in Senator Heitkamp’s decision today to vote against the repeal of this rule. Hundreds of energy employees and numerous businesses, chambers of commerce and trade associations wrote to express concern for the rule. Despite this, Senator Heitkamp has chosen to stand with the environmental activists and the Democratic party in Washington rather than the oil and gas workers and people of North Dakota.

“This rule will provide no environmental benefits, will only increase costs for state and federal governments and the industry, and will further burden already overtaxed federal employees and dilute their ability to perform essential duties. Instead, Senator Heitkamp could have been the deciding vote that would have allowed the BLM and other federal agencies to make a larger, more immediate impact on reducing flaring and venting by focusing on fixing permitting, infrastructure and pipeline delays.

Normally the state’s industry groups – oil and coal and agriculture in particular – treat Heitkamp with kid gloves. Because she is, typically, a pretty reliable vote for them.

But not this time, I guess.

This is a pretty big political move Heitkamp just made. I doubt this particular vote will be the deciding factor for many voters. And it sounds like the Trump administration isn’t going to enforce the rule anyway:

If Congress had passed the CRA it would not only have repealed the rule, it would have also prevented the BLM from implementing substantially similar rules without the approval of Congress. So this decision by the Trump administration, while good, isn’t as good as the CRA would have been.

Anyway, you have to remember that Heitkamp’s political success is built on the perception she’s built of herself as a reasonable, moderate Demcorats who is a departure from the far-left politics of national Democrats. And that facade is built on Heitkamp’s friendliness to the energy and agriculture industries here in North Dakota.

This vote put a big dent in that.

Here’s the full release from the NDPC:

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