Landowners Say State Government Needs to Correct Pipeline Company Tactics

BISMARCK—Some landowners in the Oil Patch say the State of North Dakota must stop ignoring major problems with current pipeline development while it promotes more oil pipelines as called for by the recent Governor’s pipeline summit.

Tioga rancher Scott Davis said he understands the need to build pipelines to carry Bakken oil to market, but he said, “Current pipeline development is a mess. North Dakota state government is standing by while pipeline companies trespass, break contracts, prematurely threaten eminent domain, destroy property, and cover-up problems with spills. We need to stop ignoring these problems before we promote more pipelines at the expense of farmers and ranchers livelihoods.”

At the Pipeline Summit of company CEOs and state officials June 14 in Bismarck, Gov. Jack Dalrymple said pipelines should be built as fast as possible. That was well received by pipeline company CEOs. But, Steve Davis who is a rancher near White Earth and a member of Dakota Resource Council also attended the summit and said companies and state government are ignoring concerns of landowers and state government needs to do a lot more to make sure that land and livelihoods are protected in the process.

Davis’ neighbor Brenda Jorgenson has documented 12 incidences of trespass by Alliance Pipeline Company. She has tried to work with local and state officials and has not found any remedy for the bad behavior of the company. “I can’t begin to tell you how much stress Alliance has caused us and our neighbors. The fact that I have to tell myself many times to relax shows the level of stress we’re under. The costs of this are more than monetary. Our quality and way of life is drastically affected already.”

Jorgenson’s farm is in the scenic White Earth Valley with a small river and fresh water springs that could be destroyed by pipeline construction or spills.

Cogswell farmer Paul Mathews has experience with TransCanada’s first Keystone pipeline. He said, “All property owners should know their water, property and family lives are possibly threatened by a pipeline location. The injustice comes when targeted property owners learn current North Dakota laws of eminent domain put the burden on them without any real possibility of appeal. Under current law, the pipeline company is the sole judge over property rights that most Americans believe exist.  These state laws need to be modified to protect other property owners.”

Scott Davis said whenever he delivers a bull, people tell him about their difficulties with pipeline companies. He said, “State government thinks we’re too sparsely populated to matter.  To them oil is more important than our livelihoods. We’re collateral damage. That’s it in a nutshell. “

Dakota Resource Council is a community organization helping North Dakotans achieve homegrown prosperity.

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