WHAT THE FRACK?
The chief regulator of the North Dakota oil industry, Lynn Helms, was asked by a reporter last week if he was interested in knowing what goes into the water used in fracturing oil shale to release the oil, and if oil drilling companies should be required to disclose what goes into the water. Helms said he doesnâ€™t believe itâ€™s necessary to know whatâ€™s in fracturing fluid. â€œWeâ€™d just bury ourselves in information doing the full disclosure thing. I donâ€™t think people read ingredients on food they buy at the grocery store. This would just alarm people.â€ Well, it is good to see that there are evidently still some â€œtraditional familiesâ€ left in North Dakota, maybe the Helms family included. The husband gets up in the morning and goes off to work to support his family. The wife goes to the market and buys groceries and has supper ready when her man comes home. He blithely eats his supper without having a clue whatâ€™s in it, but he doesnâ€™t have to worry because there are regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture who make sure there is nothing unsafe in his food. Kind of like our regulatory agencies here in North Dakota making sure that thereâ€™s nothing unhealthy being pumped into oil wells under the ground on which our food is grown and our cows are grazed. Oh, wait, thatâ€™s right, our regulatory agencies donâ€™t do that here in North Dakota.
FRACKING THE SNOW
I took advantage of the nice weather this week to drain and refill our hot tub, which sits just outside our back door. Easy job. I just hooked up a garden hose to the drain pipe, ran the hose out into a snow bank, and let it drain. I went out to check on it an hour later. The hot water coming out of the hose had melted the snow under the snow bank, and the snow bank had collapsed into itself. Just sayin’ . . .
The merits of the new federal health care law touched off some lengthy arguments in the North Dakota House this week. Republicans, who control the House, approved a resolution asking Congress to repeal the federal health care bill. Republicans also endorsed a separate law that says North Dakotans can’t be required to buy health insurance. Hmmmm. I found this on the North Dakota Insurance Commissionerâ€™s website, in the Commissionerâ€™s Auto Insurance Handbook:
Q. Do I have to buy auto insurance?
A. North Dakota state law requires that all motor vehicles registered and operated in the state carry certain minimum insurance coverages.
More specifically, North Dakota law says you cannot legally drive a car in North Dakota unless you have an insurance policy that includes $30,000 worth of personal injury protection (PIP), or no-fault insurance – $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for uninsured motorist coverage – $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident for underinsured motorist coverage – $25,000 worth of bodily injury or death coverage for one person per accident – $50,000 worth of bodily injury or death for up to two people per accident – $25,000 for destruction of property of others per accident. When you sign up for insurance with a licensed insurance company in the state of North Dakota, you will be mailed an insurance card, which you must keep in your vehicle at all times to serve as proof of coverage. This proof of coverage must be surrendered any time a police officer or state trooper requests it. Note to Commissioner Hamm: Better run downstairs and tell the Legislators weâ€™ve got a little conflict problem here.
Meanwhile, over on the Senate side, Sen. Margaret Sitte, who also says government canâ€™t force you to buy health insurance, filed a bill to force you to undergo counseling before divorcing. Apparently the government forcing you to buy something is constitutional when you agree with it.Â Â The state of North Dakota recently sued the federal government, challenging the constitutionality of the health care affordability act. The argument was that forcing individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Sitte has since introduced a bill that would essentially force divorcing couples to attend 10 one-hour counseling sessions as a condition for granting their divorce. Sitte says state government can, apparently, live by a different set of rules and force citizens of North Dakota who are divorcing to purchase counseling sessions at their own expense, four of which are required to focus on financial counseling.
$47 MILLION HERE, $47 MILLION THERE . . . PRETTY SOON WEâ€™RE TALKING REAL MONEY
The associated Press this week reported that the North Dakota Office of Management and Budget has revised its predictions for tax collections this year and raised its projection by almost $47 million. Which prompted the following responses from two of the most conservative men in the North Dakota Legislature:
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Jeff Delzer, Chairman of House Appropriations: â€œâ€I would say it probably doesnâ€™t change anything with what weâ€™re trying to do at all. Itâ€™s a pretty small number for what we have.â€
â€¢Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Al Carlson, House Majority Leader: â€œ . . .$40 million doesnâ€™t make that much difference. It just helps balance the books.â€
Isnâ€™t it amazing how a little jingle in your pocket changes your whole outlook on life and legislating?
Cutting the budget is a good thing to campaign on, and Senator John Hoeven did just that in 2010. But itâ€™s amazing how your perspective on things can change. The Minot Daily News this week reported Hoeven paid a visit to the Minot Air Force Base and did a little scrambling in the face of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is going to limit the number of ICBMs in the U.S. and Russia. I can see him almost tripping over his words as he toured construction sites for a new base dormitory, a new missile training facility and new facilities in the Pride Building for the 69th Bomb Squadron, the new and second squadron of B-52s.
- “The facilities, the people, the equipment that’s coming in here is important. Minot is a very, very important part of our nuclear arsenal.
- â€œThe treaty will determine how many ICBMs there will be at the three bases Minot, Malmstrom in Montana and F.E. Warren in Wyoming.
- “Right now there’s 450 (ICBMâ€™s), but remember, we can keep all the silos. None of that’s been determined yet, but from my perspective I think that would be the right approach, obviously, to keep all the silos even if there is some reduction in the number of missiles.
- â€œThe nuclear weapons at Minot AFB are very, very cost effective at a time when this country has real budget issues.”
And thatâ€™s not even the biggest news regarding the military in North Dakota. Over in the U.S. House, according to a blog report from Kristen Daum on the Forum website, Republican Rep. Rick Berg says he has successfully added language to the FAA Reauthorization bill that could mean a further boost for military operations in Grand Forks and Minot. Berg authored an amendment that calls for four new test sites for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, with the sitesâ€™ locations to be determined by established criteria. Previously, the FAA bill included no new test sites for unmanned planes. If the bill passes, the new sites would allow officials to study the effectiveness of allowing UAS to share airspace and runways with commercial aircraft. The FAA bill is expected on the House floor in March, Bergâ€™s office said. Two weeks ago, North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and John Hoeven offered their support for the Senate counterpart to Bergâ€™s amendment. The selection criteria established in this amendment would place both Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases in prime positions to benefit from this testing and potentially be chosen as testing sites, Bergâ€™s office said. â€œExpanding the use of unmanned aircraft systems holds enormous potential for both military and private sector innovation,â€ Berg said in a statement. â€œThe use of unmanned aircraft offers numerous possibilities for core North Dakota industries and will provide new opportunities for agriculture, education, and border security.â€ Berg added, â€œNorth Dakota has long been a leader in the research and expansion of this technology, and I am confident that the creation of new testing sites will open the doors for this industryâ€™s continued success in our state.â€
ATTENTION: CONGRESSMAN RICK BERG AND SENATOR JOHN HOEVEN: TODAY MARKS THE OFFICIAL END OF THE â€œNO EARMARKSâ€ RHETORIC IN NORTH DAKOTA. THATâ€™S IT. YOU ARE DOING GOOD FOR YOUR HOME STATE, JUST LIKE YOUR PREDECESSORS. YOUâ€™VE LEARNED HOW WASHINGTON OPERATES. YOU ARE NOW PROUD MEMBERS OF THE WASHINGTON, D.C. ESTABLISHMENT. SO WHEN IT COMES TO EARMARKS, JUST STFU.