Burnett: What has the fracking revolution meant for North Dakota and the United States as a whole?
Larson: This technology has been revolutionary in allowing us to get the oil out of the ground and into the hands of consumers. North Dakota has been producing oil from the Bakken Formation since the 1950s, but modern horizontal drilling and fracking have allowed producers to recover much more oil. This commodity helped us as a nation to be more energy independent, and it has been a financial and quality-of-life boon for us, creating more jobs and a healthier economy.
Additionally, I’ve seen firsthand the safety precautions used to ensure the workforce, as well as the environment, is protected.
Burnett: Recently, the Obama administration proposed new regulations limiting methane emissions from oil and gas production, do you believe these rules are necessary?
Larson: Further limits on methane emissions are unnecessary. The Environmental Protection Agency’s own data show emissions are down substantially [because] capture technology [has improved]. The market is a great motivator to prevent leaks and reduce emissions from escaping. Oil and gas drilling is subject to strict state regulation and, as with most regulations, this should remain in the hands of state, not federal, regulators. As a legislator, I don’t like duplication of services, and this federal regulation is not only duplicative, it is burdensome to the point of the Obama administration actually trying to cripple or kill industry and jobs.
Burnett: In August 2015, North Dakota joined 12 other states in a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule. The states won a stay of the rule. Do you think the states’ challenge is justified?
Larson: This is blatant overreach by the federal government to attempt to govern how our land is used. Our 2015 legislature appropriated additional money to our attorney general’s office to fight this outrageous rule. Our farmers were the first ones who brought this to my attention. Farmers regularly have water in their ditches after the snow melt and after heavy rains. Under this rule, the federal government would actually have jurisdiction over these small, temporary bodies of water—not the farmer who cares for and uses the land. This land-grab by the federal government is an infringement of states’ rights, and this should be left to the individual states to manage. I hope every state gets involved in stopping this effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and [Army] Corps of Engineers.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.