The Booms and Busts of North Dakota's Drilling

Oil drilling has brought abundant prosperity to North Dakota over the past few years. Nicholas Kusnetz exposes the impact of weak environmental regulation in the state.

1 minute read

June 10, 2012, 9:00 AM PDT

By jerinbrent


Oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing offer some very appealing benefits. Drilling sites are bound to boom with an influx on money and people. Businesses flourish. Jeff Keller, a natural resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers in Williston, ND, describes the packed theaters, sold out grocery stores, and rising rents he has seen since drilling came to his town. It's good for business, and natural gas holds the possibility of oil independence.

But, as North Dakotans are learning, the environmental impacts of drilling and fracking are undeniable. The "salty, chemical-infused wastewater, known as brine" that is produced with each drilling project is supposed to be injected into underground disposal wells. Nicholas Kusnetz reports that much of this waste is leaked, spilled or dumped illegally. Across the state, farmers have reported loss of land, property owners have reported damage to land and waterways. In some cases spills near streams have wiped out entire wildlife populations.

"Kris Roberts, who responds to spills for the Health Department, which protects state waters...acknowledged that the state does not have the manpower to prevent or respond to illegal dumping," writes Kusnetz.

"It's happening often enough that we see it as a significant problem," Roberts said. "What's the solution? Catching them. What's the problem? Catching them."

Thanks to Jessica Brent

Thursday, June 7, 2012 in ProPublica

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