Poll: Don’t slow North Dakota’s oil production


By Rob Port | North Dakota Watchdog

POLLED PRIORITIES: Most North Dakotans want oil tax revenues spent on education, road and highway improvements, and property tax relief.

BISMARCK, N.D. — The pace of North Dakota oil production has been much in the headlines of late.

Explosive train derailments in Quebec, Canada, and near the North Dakota town of Casselton prompted not just calls for increased rail and tanker-car safety, but also regulation to slow down oil production.

But according to an annual poll commissioned by the state oil industry, a majority of North Dakotans are satisfied with the current pace of production and level of regulation.

“It’s pretty clear from the data that North Dakotans are widely supportive of the oil and gas industry and they recognize the important role it plays in the state’s economy,” Erik Iverson, vice-president of Moore Information Inc., the firm that conducted the survey, said in a news release. “At the same time folks also see progress being made on issues like flaring and want to see their tax dollars going toward improving the state’s schools and infrastructure.”

Moore Information conducted the polling on behalf of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

The survey found that 83 percent of North Dakotans living in non-oil patch counties favor oil development. That number drops slightly, to 80 percent, in oil-producing counties.

“North Dakotans recognize that the oil and gas industry has been a game-changer for western North Dakota, revitalizing and growing many of our once-shrinking schools and rural communities,” NDPC President Ron Ness said in a statement. “Never before have there been so many opportunities in western North Dakota and across the state.”

Asked if the benefits of oil production outweigh the risks, 73 percent of those polled in non-oil counties said yes, with 72 percent in oil-producing counties agreeing, according to the poll.

The impact of oil production on wildlife in North Dakota also has been a hot topic. Last year the Legislature diverted up to $30 million per biennium in oil tax revenue into a fund to promote conservation projects. Activist groups are circulating a petition to create a larger fund, but according to the poll, roughly 60 percent of those asked see oil activity reducing wildlife numbers.

One area where the poll shows mixed results is in the use of oil tax revenues. Asked if they believe the estimated $240 million per month in oil tax revenue was being used to “help the average North Dakotan,” 48 percent of non-oil county respondents said yes and 29 percent said no. Of oil county respondents, the numbers were 43 percent and 44 percent, respectively.

Respondents said oil tax revenue should be spent are education, road and highway improvements and reducing property taxes.

The annual survey questioned 794 respondents, including 194 in North Dakota’s 19 oil- and gas-producing counties, in telephone interviews conducted in November. A margin of error was not reported.

Contact Rob Port at rport@watchdog.org.

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