THE CHANCELLORS’S NEW CAR
“I’m not coming from San Francisco. I am not a Beverly Hills person,” he said. “Most of my board members never (wear) ties … and they drive pickup trucks,—and in fact, I will be driving a truck too.”
That was the new North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, quoted in The Bismarck Tribune, shortly after being hired last spring. So what kind of truck did Shirvani show up in when he started work here this month? Um, well, it wasn’t exactly a pickup. It was a new Porsche with the dealer’s registration sticker still in the window. Says he bought it July 6. I haven’t been over to the Capitol lately, but friends tell me tongues are wagging every morning when he wheels the Porsche into the Capitol parking lot. There just aren’t a lot of those parked there most days.
AND THE BOOM GOES ON. OR NOT. YOU DECIDE.
Well, things are just hopping along in the Bakken. North Dakota’s doors are wide open. Here’s part of a story from The Bismarck Tribune this week.
North Dakota’s oil production could be more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 — about three times the current rate — according to a state-funded study released Wednesday. Bentek Energy LLC, an analysis firm based in Evergreen, Colo., also predicts in its study that natural gas production could quintuple to some 3 billion cubic feet by 2025 in the Williston Basin, which includes the Dakotas and Montana.
North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad, North Dakota Petroleum Council Director Ron Ness and Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Mineral Resources, said North Dakota’s natural gas potential could be parlayed into value-added industries from fertilizer to petroleum products in the state and beyond.
“This is an invitation for industry to come in and invest in North Dakota, if they haven’t already,” Ritter said.
Or not. Here’s part of a story from the Oil and Gas Journal this week.
The pace of oil drilling could slow in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and also in the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas if US prices were to drop below $80/bbl for a sustained period, said Baker Hughes Inc.’s president and chief executive officer.
“I think the shoe’s dropping in South Texas, no doubt about it,” Martin S. Craighead said during a July 20 second-quarter Baker Hughes earnings conference call. “I’m a little bit more concerned about the Bakken than I am (about) the Permian [basin],” he said.
Separately, Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen wrote in a July 10 research note that North Dakota might be experiencing a slowdown after the state has repeatedly reported record drilling. “The largest drillers in the Bakken are all reducing their rig counts this month, although none acknowledge a change in drilling plans,” Sen said, citing a sharp drop in oil prices during June. That oil price drop cast doubts about the viability of shale production at prices below $80/bbl.
Well, Gee, I suppose we better all be hoping for the price of oil to stay above $80 a barrel. And that will keep our gas prices hanging in there close to $4.00 a gallon too.
NOW THAT’S A REALLY BOLD CHARGE
The Fargo Forum reported Monday that Joseph Etelt of Fargo was arrested for walking down a Fargo street wearing nothing but shoes and socks early Sunday morning. The charge, according to the Forum story: Suspicion of indecent exposure. Suspicion? Ya think? When police asked why he was naked, he replied “Why not?” Drunk, too. Really drunk. Well, at least he was walking, not driving.
HONEST, HONEY, IT’S JUST TEMPORARY
There’s a funny story going around political circles these days about Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Kirsten Baesler’s breast implants (no, she didn’t do it just for the campaign—she did it a couple years ago—although she may have had a long-term plan and this was the beginning of her implementation). Seems Kirsten didn’t bother to tell her then-husband (they have since divorced—he claims infidelity, she claims he was a drunk) that she was going to do it, and so to explain it to him when she came home, she told him a story about having a biopsy or lump removed or something like that, and, and claimed her doctor said there would be some “swelling” for a while. Except that the “swelling” didn’t seem to go down. Still, her husband remained convinced (love really IS blind sometimes) that it was just a matter of time, until his sister finally took him aside and said something like “Dude. She got a boob job.” Turns out he was about the only one who bought the “swelling” story. Friends of the couple say she caused quite a stir in church when she walked down the aisle wearing a tight blouse shortly after the procedure.
Last week you read about a company named Halek Operating ND, LLC (LLC, incidentally, means Limited Liability Corporation, which, if history is any teacher, could prove to be prophetic, at least in this case) getting slapped with a $1.5 million fine by the North Dakota Industrial Commission for oilfield waste violations—specifically, for dumping 800,000 gallons of saltwater down a well. Yes, you read that right. Eight hundred thousand gallons. The Industrial Commission is North Dakota Republicans Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
“There will not be any exceptions or leniency when these things happen,” Dalrymple said during the discussion.
No sooner had Dalrymple made that statement and voted “aye” on the motion, than industry lackey Lynn Helms, who’s supposed to be the state’s top oil “regulator” jumped in quickly with a caveat: The company has the right to challenge the fine and ask for a hearing. Which meant “Hey, guys, now that my bosses have had their front page headline for acting tough here, don’t worry, we’ll set up a hearing and see what we can do about that outrageous amount.”
What? You say, you’re finding it hard to believe a state official would think like that? Well, don’t believe me. Read this story. Last year, the very same company received an Industrial Commission fine of almost $600,000 for not cleaning up an oil spill. The result of that case: A hearing, and the company ended up paying only about $60,000, about ten per cent of the original fine. Helms managed to save the company about half a million dollars. Oh, and the company had to post a $20,000 bond, in case it happened again.
Well, it’s happened again. No exceptions or leniency, Governor? Uh huh. Do you think maybe if they had actually had to pay that $600,000 fine last year, they’d have been a little more careful about dumping 800,000 gallons of saltwater down a well this year? We’ll see if that $20,000 bond is enough to cover their $1.5 million fine. Wanna bet? I think I’m gonna find out when that hearing is and sit in. Anyone want to join me?
The Dickinson Press (owned by Forum Communications of Fargo) Publisher and Editor, Harvey Brock and Jenifer McBride, wrote a great editorial about this the other day. You can read it here.
A couple of humorous side notes to this story:
- If you go to the Halek Operating ND LLC website, the company that dumped 800,000 gallons of salt water down a well, you’ll find this statement—one of the great Freudian slips I’ve seen lately—on their home page: Our goal is to discover oil and gas reserves in North Dakota with the potential of brining steady returns to our clients.
- I put a note about this story on my Facebook page last week, and speculated that the criminal charges against the guy charged with doing this would probably eventually be dropped. One of my Facebook (and personal) friends, Monte Rogneby, who has a great sense of humor, happens to be the guy’s attorney. He commented: “Can I hope the criminal charges go away? :-)”
A WILD GOOSE CHASE
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department this week sent out a press release announcing they were going to request a 15-goose daily limit for the early Canada Goose hunting season which begins in about 3 weeks. There’s a lot of geese around, the boys at Game and Fish say, so let’s open up on them. Yeah, right. Y’know, I really long for the days of Dale Henager and Lloyd Jones, who were both good biologists, but weren’t grandstanders like the current Game and Fish Commissioner and his staff. That’s right. These guys are just grandstanding—gee, we’re sorry, the oil industry has really taken over the deer habitat, we’re cutting deer licenses in half, but hey, we’re going to let you shoot 15 geese a day.
Here’s what’s wrong with this. The season runs from August 15 into September. The Canada geese are sitting around on small lakes in family groups of 5 or 10, not in the big flocks of hundreds you need to find to have a big goose shoot. So you can’t go out in the evening and scout big flocks, then set out decoys in the morning, and shoot lots of geese. Realistically, no one is going to get the opportunity to shoot 15 geese in a day. Second, no one is going to want to take home 15 giant Canada geese. Sheesh, the freezer would be full the first day of a season that lasts until late December. Most of us don’t shoot 15 geese in a season, much less in a day.
I really hope we elect a new governor in November so we can clean house at Game and Fish.