Always looking for an opportunity to make political hay, North Dakota Democrats are looking to cash in on recent pipeline spills in the Bakken region.
“Following the largest saltwater spill of North Dakota’s current oil boom, state Democratic lawmakers say they will revisit measures overwhelmingly rejected two years ago that would mandate additional monitoring and safeguards,” reports James MacPherson of the Associated Press. “House Assistant Minority leader Cory Mock told The Associated Press on Thursday that Democrats plan to introduce legislation by Monday that would require flow meters and cutoff switches on pipelines that carry oilfield wastewater.”
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”We need to figure out why these spills keep happening, and what if any public policy can be implemented to help stop them. And when Democrats can start seeing past the ends of their partisan noses on the issue, maybe they can join the debate.”[/mks_pullquote]
Obviously, nobody likes these spills. This is something people of all political stripes want to remedy. The problem is that Democrats, including Rep. Mock, aren’t proposing serious policy in response. And in the absence of serious policy, this looks suspiciously like a knee-jerk effort to glom onto some headlines for political reasons.
Why isn’t this policy serious? Because it has been proposed and rejected before, for one thing. Legislation proposing flow meters and cutoff switches failed miserably in the Legislature during the 2013 session, with a wide majority including 22 of the 23 Democrats in the House voting “no” on the bill.
But more importantly, flowmeters and cutoff switches don’t work. Democrat Agriculture Commission candidate Ryan Taylor learned this lesson the hard way during the 2014 campaign season. After a saltwater spill in Mandaree, Taylor attempted to grandstand on the negative headlines the same way Mock and legislative Democrats are now. He said that if elected Agriculture Commissioner he would use his seat on the Industrial Commission to push for flowmeters and cutoff switches.
What Taylor didn’t know, to his chagrin, was that the Mandaree pipeline was already equipped with flowmeters and cutoff switches. They didn’t stop the spill.
After Taylor embarrassed himself on this issue in 2014, it’s hard to wonder why Democrats are trotting it out again during the 2015 session. Maybe it’s just partisan muscle reflex. Or maybe this is why Democrats can’t seem to climb out of the super-minority in state government.
Regardless, it’s clear that the industry is already using these devices to some degree (I’d be interested in knowing if they were present in the recent pipeline spills). But if they’re the cure-all Democrats seem to think they are, wouldn’t the industry be using them more widely? Or are we to believe that the oil industry is willing to accept the hugely negative headlines which come along with each spill, not to mention the cost of damages and cleanup, for want of implementing these devices?
That’s a little hard to swallow.
We need to figure out why these spills keep happening, and what if any public policy can be implemented to help stop them. And when Democrats can start seeing past the ends of their partisan noses on the issue, maybe they can join the debate.