Ryan Taylor has a column in the Dickinson Press today blasting the State Industrial Commission for recent pipeline spills. A saltwater pipeline spill on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation started over the 4th of July holiday and wasn’t noticed for days. It spilled a million gallons of the brine which, by chance, was kept out of Lake Sakakawea (and the drinking supply of the reservation) by beaver dams.
“The solace for the community, local agriculture and for North Dakota is that the beavers had it under control,” quips Taylor.
Previously another saltwater spill, this time blamed on a cow brushing against a valve switch, threatened the Little Missouri River.
Taylor, a Democrat who is running for the office of Agriculture Commission (and thus a seat on the State Industrial Commission) naturally blames the current Republican leadership for these problems, and points to his own call for flowmeters and pressure cutoff switches to detect and stop these spills.
I’m thankful for the beavers, but I believe that our government, particularly our agriculture commissioner — who sits on the Industrial Commission responsible for these saltwater pipelines — should be leading the effort for common sense requirements to protect our farmland and drinking water. We elect people for this kind of work, which shouldn’t be left to chance or to rodents.
Three weeks before the Mandaree spill, I proposed a Landowner Bill of Rights, and one of the planks to protect landowners is a requirement for flow meters and pressure cutoff switches on saltwater lines that cross our farms and ranches. Such requirements would protect the land from sterilization that can last generations, and our waters from contamination.
Here’s the thing: I think this requirement for meters and cutoff switches is something that probably needs to be put in place. Pipelines aren’t perfect. Sometimes they fail. But we can minimize the impact of those failures by implementing technology to detect when a spill is happening and stop the flow on the pipeline.
But here’s another thing: Taylor and his fellow Democrats to make this a partisan, political issue. Let’s flash back to the legislative session last year when a bill to implement flowmeters and pressure switches was considered by the state House (the bill never made it to the Senate). It was HB1347, and it failed with 86 no votes and just 4 yes votes.
Among the yes votes was just one Democrat, Rep. Kenton Onstad of Parshall (the other three were Republicans Vicky Steiner, David Rust and Keith Kempenich).
With 20/20 hindsight, it’s clear that vote should have gone the other way. But Democrats shouldn’t get to revise history on the issue. There were 23 Democrats serving in the House last year. They could have voted for this bill.
Here’s the video of the bill brought to the floor by Rep. Jim Schmidt, a Republican, and promptly voted down with no debate: