Legislative Leaders Schneider, Onstad Request Answers on Tioga Oil Spill

Legislative Leaders Schneider, Onstad Request Answers on Tioga Oil Spill
  • Current estimates are more than 20,000 barrels of Bakken oil spilled near Tioga, ND
  • Schneider and Onstad send formal request to ND Health Department, seek answers about the state’s response to record spill

(BISMARCK – OCTOBER 15, 2013) State Senator Mac Schneider of Grand Forks and State Representative Kenton Onstad of Parshall released the following statement:

“We share North Dakotans’ deep concerns about the recent oil spill near Tioga, North Dakota and are committed to making certain that a disaster of this magnitude does not happen again in our state.

“The public is rightfully concerned about their state government’s response. As their elected representatives, we believe thorough and accurate information is key to making future improvements. That is why, earlier today, we sent a formal request to the State Health Department, which asks specific questions regarding the department’s response to this spill.

“It is important that policymakers and regulators determine what can be done to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future. North Dakotans are owed a full accounting of what happened, when it happened, who knew what, and when they knew it.”

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Full Text of Letter Sent by Leaders Schneider and Onstad to ND Health Department

October 15, 2013

Terry Dwelle, M.D., State Health Officer

North Dakota Department of Health

600 East Boulevard Avenue

Bismarck, ND 58505-02000

Dear Dr. Dwelle:

This letter is a formal request for information regarding the response by the North Dakota Department of Health to the recent oil spill near Tioga, North Dakota and the agency’s ongoing efforts to remedy this situation. While we understand your agency moved to contain the spill once it was discovered, we believe it is vitally important that state agencies and elected leaders learn critical lessons from this disaster and make improvements on the significant shortcomings in the state’s response.

We would therefore appreciate it if you would answer the questions below as a first step towards ensuring a pipeline leak and oil spill of this magnitude never again occurs in North Dakota and that future responses to any future spills are characterized by timeliness and transparency.

1) Much has already been said about the delay between the time your agency learned about the spill and the time the public was informed about this matter. Additionally, it appears that most of North Dakota’s elected leaders first learned about the spill when it was reported by the media. Please identify the changes you are making to your agency’s communication policies to ensure timely transmission of such information to elected officials and the public.

2) Between September 30, when it was estimated the amount of oil spilled was approximately 750 barrels, and October 8, when Tesoro revised the spill estimate to 20,600 barrels, please identify the steps your agency took to ascertain the actual size of the spill.

3) Newspaper articles indicate that the leak was only discovered after a landowner smelled oil as he was working in his field. What measures were in place to guard against an undetected leak of this magnitude and why did those measures fail in this case?

4) Initial media reports have stated that the pipeline leak was likely a result of corrosion. What steps are being taken to ascertain the integrity of other pipelines throughout North Dakota?

5) Please set forth the steps the Department of Health is taking, including any cooperative measures with other state or federal agencies, to prevent a future pipeline leak and spill of this nature.

As elected representatives who are supportive of increasing North Dakota’s pipeline capacity, we believe it is imperative that state regulators and policymakers gather information to make necessary improvements in the above areas. We are all exceptionally thankful that this spill does not appear to have impacted groundwater, wildlife, or the surrounding environment, but we strongly believe our state’s leaders must take the lessons of this disaster to heart.

We respectfully ask that your agency provide answers to these questions by the close of business on Tuesday, October 22. You should feel free to provide additional supplementary answers as your investigation continues beyond that date. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Mac Schneider Kenton Onstad

State Senator, District 42 State Representative, District 4

Grand Forks Parshall

CC:

North Dakota Industrial Commission:

Hon. Jack Dalrymple, Governor

Hon. Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General

Hon. Doug Goehring, Agriculture Commissioner

From: Dem-NPL News

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