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Sakakawea Group Opposes Rigs
It's The state's busiest boat ramp. Now, North Dakota's Industrial Commission hasapproved a plan to drill 11 oil wells near Van Hook. The Friends of Lake Sakakawea is opposed to the plan and wants the state to reconsider. Here's Jim Olson with the story. Friends of Lake Sakakawea sent this letter the the State Industrial Commission last week, urging the group that decides on oil exploration permits to re-think its decision to allow Slawson Exploration to drill eleven wells here - just 700 feet from the edge of the boat ramp at Van Hook - and near the community of Van Hook. Terry Fleck leads the Friends group and says the governor, attorney general, and ag commissioner who make up the Industrial Commission need to consider their social responsibility. The Friends worry what might happen if one of the wells has a blowout on a busy summer day with hundreds of boat trailers in the lot, and hundreds of people on the beaches at Van Hook. Fleck says there is no viable plan to get everyone safely off of or away from the lake in such a scenario. He says the Friends are considering asking for a permit to conduct a protest at the site - something Fleck says would be well attended if news of the oil drilling plans had come in the summer. An official with the State Industrial Commission says there is little recourse for the commission since the application by Slawson meets the state's legal requirements and can't be denied without cause. The company has agreed to several stipulations required by the state for the well site, trying to minimize the impact on the area. I spoke with a Slawson official who said the company has expended a lot of extra effort and money to address the concerns, and has moved the well pad as far north as it can and still reach the oil under the lake. Still, Fleck is passionate about the cause and hopes the state or the oil company will find a way to move the drilling pad farther from what he calls the greatest natural resource in the state. Slawson still needs permission from the federal government before drilling can commence. The company estimates it will take 14 months to drill the 11 wells at the site. Jim Olson, KX News. Fleck added that he often hears members of the oil and gas division talking about social responsibility and the environment and he hopes they keep that in mind and relocate the drill site.