A number of spills in North Dakota’s oil patch have got headlines recently, but at least one company is a little suspicious as to how they came to happen:
From a four-day period this week, state regulators dealt with 28 separate spill incidents and an unusual number involved saltwater and oil fouling wetlands and watersheds.
One of the latest to be publicly reported occurred Sunday when a diesel tanker unloading at Rolfson Oil bulk plant near Alexander left a valve open and spilled 400 gallons of diesel, with some spilling into a tributary of Lonesome Creek.
Earlier, Hess Corp. reported that suspicious activity may be to blame for saltwater spills at two oil wells in Williams County.
Hess spokesman John Roper said employees found wide-open valves on saltwater storage tanks on two well locations 3 miles apart.
“We call that suspicious,” he said.
So who would be motivated to cause spills, if that is what’s happening?
It could be a disgruntled employee or group of employees. Dropping oil price have resulted in layoffs in some parts of the country, but that really hasn’t hit North Dakota yet.
Could it be random vandals? Always possible.
Could it be environmental activists who are heavily invested in any and every opportunity to embarrass the industry they hate? That’s also a possibility. The environmental movement, like any political movement, has its fringe elements. Acts of vandalism by these activists isn’t common, but it’s not unusual either. The oil industry is very controversial in some circles, and there are even foreign nations with an interest in doing whatever they can to wound America’s domestic oil production.
This is a serious matter. Vandalism or even terrorism aimed at drilling sites, or aimed at one of the states many pipelines, isn’t really something either the state or the industry is prepared to deal with.