Ron Ness, President of North Dakota Petroleum Council

Ron Ness: The Truth About Bakken Air Quality

The American Lung Association recently reported (2022 State of the Air Report) that counties in the North Dakota oil patch had some of the cleanest air in the nation. That report is certainly great news for those people who live and work in western North Dakota. It is however, unfortunate and surprising that the Grand Forks Herald chose instead to report on an air quality study of questionable scientific validity.

The study in question, Natural Gas Flaring, Respiratory Health, and Distributional Effects, was the product of economists, not health professionals. The researchers admitted themselves that the evidence they found was casual and not proven. Yet this so-called research was portrayed as fact by the Forum and its columnist Tony Bender.

The story went on to repeat state-to-state comparisons of natural gas flaring. That analysis compared states whose natural gas is a byproduct of oil production and those who capture natural gas as the primary objective. That comparison, while sensational, is hardly fair.

Finally, the story quoted N.D. Rep. Finley-DeVille where she claimed widespread problems with “Bakken cough” when she was in the emergency room in Watford City.  Rep. Finley-DeVille is no medical professional; however, she is a well-known critic of oil and natural gas production.

In response to Ms. Finley-DeVille’s claim, Pete Edis, CEO of McKenzie County Healthcare Systems, countered “the Bakken cough is not a known diagnosis. MCHS is not in the business of diagnosing patients with illnesses that are unrecognized by mainstream medical organizations.” Once again, this claim is less than credible and unsupported by the mainstream medical profession.

Here is what we do know as fact:

According to the American Lung Association, North Dakota’s oil and natural gas counties have some of the cleanest air in the nation.

Oil and natural gas exploration and production is done more cleanly in North Dakota and the United States than anywhere else in the world.

Companies doing business in the Bakken have invested billions of dollars in natural gas capture and processing. The result has been a dramatic decrease in our state’s flaring. And we are only getting started.

We have invested billions of dollars in new, high-tech pipelines to move oil, natural gas, and water byproducts, taking trucks off the road and improving public safety.

North Dakota’s oil and natural gas industry provides over 50,000 quality jobs across our state.

The industry provides billions of dollars every year in state tax and royalty revenue that funds schools, roads, healthcare, flood protection, and property tax relief.

Producing oil and natural gas here, in the United States, instead of buying it from unfriendly countries is good for our nation’s security and economic prosperity.

The North Dakota Petroleum Foundation has planted over 200,000 trees to mitigate our impact on the environment.

Not only is the industry capturing more natural gas, but we are developing and deploying new technologies to reduce the impact of oil exploration on the land, air, and wildlife habitat.

It is my hope that future stories about oil and natural gas production in North Dakota use credible sources for their information or, at least, attempt to validate information provided by these biased alternatives using facts from federal and state regulatory agencies and regional medical experts. We recognize that we have more to do, but North Dakota’s oil and natural gas industry is committed to making the most of our state’s natural resources with the least possible impact on the land, environment, and people. After all, we live here too.

“It is my hope that future stories about oil and gas production in North Dakota use credible sources for their information or, at least, attempt to validate information provided by biased alternative using facts from federal and state regulatory agencies and regional medical experts.”

RON NESS, NDPC

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