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Whistle-blower reveals N Dakota leak of 11M gallons of gas condensate in 2015 (desmogblog.com)
354 points by howard941 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

> “In North Dakota we do not regulate based on volume,” Suess added. “Whether we put a 10 there, a 100 there, a 1,000 there is not going to change our response to the spill, it is not going to change what the responsible party has to do, not going to change their remediation, it is not going to change anything other than your curiosity.”

That's a very self serving opinion Mr. Suess, since if word gets out that _millions_ of gallons were spilled under your agency's watch, yet reported as 10 gallons, that will create a lot of political pressure to change more than curiosity. That difference is a little more than "nothing to see here, move along".

Officially underlisting the volume, even if the state privately responds in an appropriate manner[1], ends up being misleading to the public and downplaying the environmental damage that's on-going. During the Keystone protests it was often repeated how small most spills are - now I'm curious if these small spills are just being under-reported.

1. Which I have extreme doubts about, but I'll just ignore that for a moment.

Yeah I wonder if that works the other way too. Suppose instead of 10, it's 1 gallon, or less. Same response?

This is why we participated in the protest against the pipeline that went over the Missouri and through tribal lands a few years ago. A crack over the river would be devastating to the surrounding communities. The claims that it is unlikely we're bogus as it's been shown time after time. Worse yet, we can't trust the officials to do the right thing. It's more likely they'd hide or downplay it than make sure it's properly taken care of.

A true pro-pipeline official would crack down on maintenance and inspections and demand that the pipeline never spill. These officials might think that they are pro-pipeline, but in reality they're pushing us towards a future where pipelines are banned entirely. It's ironic that in addition to polluting the environment in a way that sacrifices long-term health for short-term gain, they are also ruining the political environment in a way that helps them now but will make them pay in the future.

Their reward structures, and the reward structures of the people who bought them prioritize short-term planning over long-term planning.

Twenty years from now, oil extraction may well be banned, regardless of whether pipelines spill under their watch. But the profits from slap-dash operation can be made today.

>The claims that it is unlikely we're bogus as it's been shown time after time.

What are the stats on gallons spilled from pipelines vs trucks vs trains?

The fact that there are more evil evils doesn't counter act the argument. What a weird argument to make... It's like the"why are we funding research into X when heart disease kills more people". "Why are we focusing on guns when cars kill more people".

Maybe the answer is we don't ship dangerous materials across vast distances using methods that are dangerous to the local communities. Why does the answer have to be whatever the cheapest most convenient solution for the company? It should be the solution is least likely to cause serious harm and meets the needs of the communities it impacts.

Do you drive? Do you use plastic? Then you're part of the reason these pipelines exist in first place. Without demand, they're unnecessary. When there's demand there, they're gonna get the product to market, whether it's by pipeline or truck or rail. So not really a weird argument.

I don't drive and I don't use any plastic outside of annoying packaging that's forced on me. Since I'm living in Vancouver does this mean we can cancel the trans-mountain pipeline?

In truth I find your comment quite disingenuous since it is trying to force the burden of responsibility on end consumers - currently the market is strongly indicating a desire for renewables including the high demand for electric and hybrid cars and the fact that in a lot of areas consumers have actually put up with reusable grocery bag laws. Those are nothing but cost and inconvenience to the end consumers and yet it's become much more normalized, don't forget that charging for plastic bags twenty years ago would have driven a grocery store out of business.

I live in california. Every weekday here we have millions of people that make their commute to work. I would say 95% of this transport is using fossil fuels. Most of these same people are probably against pipelines as well but the reality is if you get rid of pipelines and create fossil fuel shortages or prices to skyrocket then you will see an uprising. Thats the reality.

Given the vestigial state that public transit has allowed to degrade to - sure. The problem is that fossil fuel shortages will happen in the future and no planning is being done for that, if these pipelines were being built while trillions were being poured into infrastructure to support a green transit based world then I'd have less objections, but it's not happening. The US Government is actively subsidizing fossil fuel extraction while municipalities tighten their belts on public transit - this is bad.

Also, just to note, EVs are getting heavy investment right now and will be able to dominate the market without any infrastructure investments.

Sounds like the green New deal lets stop burning coal and burn all the trees down instead. People are so morally corrupted and internally conflicted about it they're not sure what to support.

Electric and Hybrid cars still require a boat ton of non-renewable. Depending on the car, you produce as much C02 making the car as running it for a lifetime (in the case of the Range Rover, it's actually much much more in the making). I live in Victoria, and truthfully, Victoria/Vancouver/Seattle, are basically the reason that the Oil Sands exist at all, it's where the vast majority of the product has gone over the last 50 years. (Also, I think you're talking about the transmountain pipeline, not trans-canada).

So... https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=150000+miles+%2F+%2825...

That shows about 57 tons of CO2 over a 150,000 mile lifespan of a conventional (non-hybrid) car - even more if you assume a larger lifespan.

Estimates I can find for the embodied CO2 of an EV car are around 10-30 CO2 tons. A smaller hybrid would be on the lower side, while an EV SUV would be on the higher side. Also, instead of looking at the entire cost of the CO2 from the car, we should really be using the additional CO2 over replacement, by subtracting how much C02 it takes to create the alternative, a conventional car. Let's just look at the battery. This thread shows Tesla batteries require about 5-14 tonnes of CO2 to create: https://www.reddit.com/r/teslamotors/comments/6sm6rs/the_rea.... Compared to the 57 tonnes of CO2 from a conventional car's lifetime, we're somewhere around a factor of 5-10x better for EVs.

Alternative w/o fossil fuels isn't another car though, that's the point.

Oh to clarify - I don't think we should (or really even could) force all fossil fuel cars off the road tomorrow, the most extreme action that's even reasonable is placing a cut off for new car sales a year or two in the future[1] - then letting those age out.

We should be working on encouraging conversion to EV when older cars age out, eventually maybe there'd be a cutoff for on-road usage, but I'd be amazed if that were any closer than 15 years out, and that's super close already.

1. Re-configuring production lines is expensive, it'd likely be environmentally wasteful to force early conversions of production lines by manufacturers - giving them a window to convert allows them to cease any R&D investment into gas only vehicles and invest more in EVs.

I was responding to the false claim in your comment, "Depending on the car, you produce as much C02 making the car as running it for a lifetime."

I doubt there's a single ICE car on the market that creates as much CO2 to make as it does to run.

The additional CO2 for making an EV is on the order of 5-10x lower than the CO2 it can save (when running on renewable power). Even making a new EV on the order of operating an existing ICE car for ~50k-ish miles.

"Victoria/Vancouver/Seattle, are basically the reason that the Oil Sands exist at all, it's where the vast majority of the product has gone over the last 50 years."

Er, what? The tar sands products wouldn't be coming to the west coast consumers, myself included, unless it was refined first. The whole point of the pipeline expansion is to add mass export for the diluted bitumen product, which is to be sold for overseas refining and use.

Some of the current pipeline capacity is indeed for end use out here, but I don't think it's got anything to do with the tar sands.

Ah thanks for the correction, I had confused them - it's the KinderMorgan project, for clarity. I've corrected the OP.

Did I say that I didn't want oil to exist or for it to not be made available? I said that we shouldn't just take whatever cheapest solution the company proposes. These companies are not hurting for profits. Making them try a little harder to come up with solutions for transportation that doesn't endanger countless people with far reaching effects. This is about minimizing the risk when something happens. Something ALWAYS happens... maybe not in 1 year or 5 years but in 10, 20, 30 years, something will happen... we need to minimize the damage when that happens.

Consumer demand is there because driving and plastics are extremely cheap compared to the alternatives, in large part because externalities are not priced in.

They're all greater than the amount of gallons spilled by not extracting and transporting it in the first place and instead finding alternative sources of energy supply.

FOH with that strawman.

Those alternative sources currently cannot replace fossil fuels entirely.

Yeah, that's just not true. With appropriate investment alternative energy technology today can replace all fossil energy sources. You just have to build the wind turbines and the solar panels, and the batteries, and the power-to-gas facilities. It's expensive to change the entire energy supply, but its doable.

Okay, you first. All plastics, most transportation, packaging, and medical devices are petro derived.

I'll be honest, I'm not a material scientist. Do we make plastics and packaging and medical devices out of natural gas? Are we talking about petroleum at all in this discussion? Does this whattaboutist thing actually address the point I'm making at all?

The draft document here:


appears to be incomplete. Specifically, pages 3-7 appear to be missing.

From the article:

> Suess [the state’s Spill Investigation Program Manager] defended his agency’s methods. “What I believe the North Dakota public wants to know is not how big is it, but is this spill a risk to me,” he said. “Personally, I have actually been told by others that we are one of the most transparent agencies out there. My boss is the North Dakota taxpayer, and my door is always open, any citizen can walk in at any time and talk to me.”

That statement sets off all kinds of alarm bells. Forget the facts. You can count on us to tell you what you need to know.

> “Personally, I have actually been told by others that we are one of the most transparent agencies out there”

Are there really voting-age citizens that are persuaded by a comment like this?

The comment isn't supposed to persuade anyone, it's supposed to be a fig leaf for people who already support the political party in question, to cite in defense of their party.

This shifts debate into an unanswerable questions - whether or not the official in question is lying.

Native American anti-pipeline protesters were endlessly demonized and criminalized, violently opposed by both police and privately-funded thugs, yet their concerns were clearly absolutely valid.

It disgusted me how places like reddit were absolutely, positively swarming with pro-pipeline accounts during that time, defending it as the more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option.

> defending it as the more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly option

Is that not true? What's the best option for transporting oil and gas?

I think the fundamental issue is that nobody else wanted the pipeline on their land, so it got shoved onto the nominally sovereign Indian tribes where the white man's bullshit always gets pushed. (And I say that as a white man.)

From Robert Caro's The Power Broker:

Robert Moses had shifted the parkway south of Otto Kahn's estate, south of Winthrop's and Mills's estates, south of Stimson's and De Forest's. For men of wealth and influence, he had moved it more than three miles south of its original location. But James Roth possessed neither money nor influence. And for James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway south even one tenth of a mile farther. For James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway one foot.

Not transporting it. A better solution can still be a bad solution.

If you absolutely are going to burn it (sigh), burn it on site for electrical generation. Transmission lines don’t leak methane, and HVDC cables can be buried in a similar fashion to a pipeline. Methane extraction aligns well with geographies that have strong renewable growth and need combined cycle gas turbine backing until battery replacement can occur.

Now, if you’re trying to export it and need it in original form, this doesn’t work and you’re going to try to avoid externalities of transport, which is what regulation is for.

Condensate is not typically burned for electrical generation. It's value is as a very low viscosity liquid so it can be blended with heavy oil to make it's transport more efficient. This also necessitates taking it to where the heavier oil is being produced.

It's also typically not composed of methane but propane+, and while there may be a correlation with renewable energy in the same areas, those regions tend to be quite a distance from the ultimate consumers. high capacity electric transportation is not environmentally neutral and underground networks in these areas would be as costly as pipelines, which is why they are almost always above ground.

These are fair points.

You can suffer 60% loss on HVDC long range transmission alone, and that's assuming you have the tech for it.

There's a reason why coal is hauled to power station, instead of being burned near mines.

According to the Wikipedia HVDC losses are below 3% per 1000km. To have 60% loss you'd need to transmit the power halfway across the globe.

I stand corrected.

> There's a reason why coal is hauled to power station, instead of being burned near mines.

Not really.

Power stations need a ready and ample supply of water for power generation and cooling. This is why they can often be a long way from mines and oil/gas fields.

Have a citation for those losses? I haven’t seen HVDC lines with losses above single digits.

“HVDC transmission has typically 30-50% less transmission loss than comparable alternating current overhead lines. (For comparison: given 2500 MW transmitted power on 800 km of overhead line, the loss with a conventional 400-kv AC line is 9.4%; with HVDC transmission at 500 kV, it is only 6%, and at 800 kV it is just 2.6%.)” [1]

Also, there are many coal plants sited right at coal mines.

[1] https://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/events/2012/energy/201...

it’s scary I can no longer tell the difference between paid mercenaries/interns manufacturing consent and reactionaries on reddit

Does anybody know why the story is dropping down so quickly on HN? It's currently 194 points & posted 57 minutes ago, one of the most viral on the front page by far, yet it's gone from #1 to #22 in around 30 minutes.

Edit: Down to #23 since I wrote the comment. It's gotten 200 votes in an hour, should be at least top 5. The #1 and #2 posts have only gotten 49 and 23 votes respectively in the past hour.

Edit 2: Now it's up to #21 & 209 points...

Edit 3: Down to #24 & 228 points...

Edit 4: Up to #20 & 239 points...

Edit 5: Up to #14 & 278 points...

Edit 6: Dropped way down to #40 with 312 points, only 2 hours old...

I don't know for certain but it seems like ranking is not just by upvotes within a time period, but also what the topic content is, based on how I've seen posts ranked before. Kind of politicized non-tech things don't seem to get priority even if there are lots of upvotes it seems. Just based on my observations, I could be mistaken.

Edit: as others mentioned it could factor in people flagging the post, comment to upvotes ratio, etc

Politics without a technical tie in?

I can understand that, but then why is a post about canine health ranked 10 times higher when it was posted roughly the same time and received 1/3 the votes?

I'm wondering if there's some sort of artificial manipulation going on, as it's a story that's heavily embarrassing to one of the world's most powerful and influential industries.

A simpler explanation than artificial manipulation is extreme polarization. This story is a kind of an "egg on the face" moment for one side of the debate, so lots of people have a shared desire for this story to wane without necessarily coordinating to make it disappear.

Bots, shills and morons "steering the sentiment" to confuse, befuddle and seed doubt in people's minds. We have to take decisive action now and be undeterred by BS or games. The billionaires are (indirectly) fking with you to suck more money out of civilization before they isolate themselves in their doom bunkers where they too will eventually die.

That seems completely counterintuitive, billionaires already run the world and are directly accountable to impacts to the world economy. I don’t think they are trying to obtain more increments of power or wealth that no one would notice.

But pipelines still are better than trucks. The alternate to the pipeline wasn’t no gas at all.

Pipeline is an investment in infrastructure that sets up a sunk cost argument against moving away from oil as a driving source of energy.

"Why would we invest in more clean/green energy sources when we have this brand new pipeline?" It essentially hardens the argument (and subsequent lobbying) for these industries.

I get that it is a huge source of income for folks who travel to and live in these areas. However, it's not a forward looking path--particularly when the environmental impact and costs are so high up front.

In that respect, using trucks--while theoretically having a larger short term impact on emissions--allows for future flexibility and doesn't break into the earth in such a permanent and invasive way.

"Better" in what sense? A tanker truck that spills its entire load might spill 3,000 gallons or 11,600 gallons[0], a far cry from the 11,000,000 gallons with which this story is concerned.

On that measure, trucks are clearly lower-risk. On other measures, they fare worse. There was also the option of running the pipeline through a different area, but the government claimed that wasn't worth the extra expense, and that there would definitely be no spills like the one there obviously was.

[0] https://www.reference.com/business-finance/many-gallons-tank...

The alternative to pipelines is not trucks, it's rail, and the impact x frequency of rail-based spills is larger than pipelines.

No, it isn’t. Pipelines spill far more than rail.

Apart from the words "anti-pipeline", that could describe any of hundreds of events from the past 200 years. Demonizing and persecuting the Sioux, in pursuit of wealth for European settlers, has been going on for as long as the United States have existed.

Even if you know nothing about oil pipelines (and I don't), there's simply no chance this story was going to end with "The First Nations got a raw deal in every interaction with the United States for the past 200 years, but this time it turned out perfectly fine."

The U.S. was a signatory of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Go check out the area of land which the U.S. agreed to lay no claim to.

The billionaires are killing us and everything, with private security, mercenaries and the police protecting them. We're going to have to fight to overthrow the corporate extinctionists.

If it works anything like it does in Canada, the issue is nowhere near as cut and dry as you make it out to be. I'm going to draw comparison to the Canadian situation to illustrate my point.

First, the many native bands in Canada have had a variety of motivations for slowing/blocking the Trans Canada Pipeline project - some have been about environmental protection and preservation of heritage, sure, but a lot of it is political.

Band leaders are, rationally, trying to maximize funds flowing from federal coffers to their bands in the form of grants, subsidies, etc. Some use this funding to help their people, and some don't - it varies widely, just like municipalities do - but holding up infrastructure projects is a tried-and-true method of getting more funding.

While bands are rationally acting in their own self-interest, the government has to strongly consider the interests of the nation, state, region, etc. as a whole.

All of these native concerns, plus the potential environmental impact, have to be weighed against the benefits: fewer petroleum shipments via rail, which is much more dangerous than pipelines, tax revenue, jobs in the oil & gas sector, strategically vital energy security, etc.

Oil shipments via rail are more dangerous when only measuring deaths caused (such as due to rail accidents). Oil shipped via pipeline is much more likely to spill than rail [1].

Also there's this "pretend that macroeconomics doesn't exist" notion among pro-pipeline hard-liners. By allowing crude oil to be transported in greater quantities without accounting for the permanent environmental costs, we're actively fighting against market forces that make green energy more feasible. If the supply of oil increases, then its prices drop, and the demand for alternatives to fossil fuels lessens.

[1]: Congressional Research Service - https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43390.pdf

I completely disagree with that method of promoting renewables, so there's no "we" here. The people who would be most impacted by rising petroleum prices would be those least able to afford it.

America is built on the automobile and most working families can't afford a Tesla at this point - intentionally pushing up oil prices by cutting supply would essentially be a regressive tax.

Tesla is approaching this the right way, however - make electric products that are superior to what's on the market, then aim for economies of scale to dramatically reduce prices and make them affordable. No supply-side manipulation of oil prices necessary, it just takes time.

The people most impacted by any price change of any product anywhere are the ones the least able to afford the thing whose price is changing. It’s a cute tautological sound bite that is meaningless without numbers to realize the impact.

There is a real cost to the environment, communities, and people’s health that is completely externalized and unaccounted for by the fossil fuel lobby. It’s a real cost that will eventually be paid by taxes and lives, not a manipulation. Ignoring that cost in the price of oil is the opposite of market-driven.

It's tautological only insofar as you are intentionally ignoring context. If we were talking about the rising price of yachts or some other niche item it would be irrelevant, but almost all working Americans commute.

To address negative externalities there are other proposed solutions - such as a carbon tax - which would not require the intentional scuttling of pipeline projects, although I'm not a huge fan of those either.

My solution would be to walk down the list of emitting sources and tackle each individually. Electricity production is #1, and utility-scale anything is much easier to influence at the policy level. Subsidize the shit out of nuclear and remove the regulatory barriers to getting projects done. Ditto with grid-scale solar and wind.

Transportation is next... get the cost of electric vehicles down by encouraging economies of scale. You can use specific positive incentives here rather than broad-based negative ones.

Anyway, you get the point. Given the complexity of energy policy I find the idea that a soundbite-worthy policy would be the panacea to be laughable. Not building pipelines would just hurt the petroleum industry and have nearly zero measurable impact on carbon emissions.

> The people who would be most impacted by rising petroleum prices would be those least able to afford it.

The people who will be most impacted by climate change and rising seas will also be those least able to afford it.

You can tax carbon and offset it with a tax credit, so it doesn't hurt poor households as much. British Columbia does it.

The poorest are also least equipped to deal with the consequences of catastrophic global warming.

This we can agree on. You'll note that I never said "global warming isn't real" or that "we should sit on our hands". I criticized this particular policy proposal as being both ineffective and economically punitive.

There are better ways to tackle global warming... I proposed a few ideas above.

Even in the wildest dreams of greens we don't displace oil with renewables today. A huge piece of the puzzle is that all the oil delivered to consumers is not equal. Oil produced in Canada, US , Norway, etc is done so under much tighter constraints than the middle east, Africa or parts of S.A., and the beneficiaries match a lot more with the general consensus of "right" than any of these locations.

example: Alberta sits with land-locked oil while eastern Canada imports massive quantities from the middle east because "oil is dirty" when you can see how the sausage is made.

Exactly. Most policy issues are way more complex than people think, and the proposed solutions way too simplistic to actually work.

Pipeline makes transportation cheaper but doesn’t increase the supply if they were already using trucks. In that case your entire macroeconomics point is wrong unless the pipeline made the difference between profitability and loss.

It obviously increases the supply in the regions being supplied. Of course I don’t mean that we are creating something out of nothing.

My two cents: how are the regulators funded? Is it self funded like the CFPB through fines on the entities it regulates or through the state / federal government? Self funding, while difficult and not applicable to all agencies, seems to inoculate regulatory capture somewhat.

Second, what's Mr. Suess resume look like? His LinkedIn profile only shows his work as a regulator, was he in the industry in a previous life? The revolving door between industry and regulation at the highest levels seems to be a precursor to "oversights" like this.

> Self funding, while difficult and not applicable to all agencies, seems to inoculate regulatory capture somewhat.

I would absolutely want to see statistical evidence of that before I supported it. Regulatory agencies are destroyed from within. If you tie funding to prosecution, a few corrupt appointees can cripple an agency for years. Simply by passing on a few big cases they would destroy the funding flow and lose critical employees even if they didn't intend to.

If there is an external funding supply, it can be cut off but at least the agency will survive bad appointees. The US government in particular is built on checks and balances; betting everything on the agency keeping itself afloat is not balanced.

Where is the proof or evidence? Are we so captive by our own belief systems that we no longer require a single shred of evidence that anything even close to this ever occurred?

Since this is a blog, it doesn't even have the benefit of built-in (although perhaps suspect these days) credibility of investigative journalists and editorial vetting at the NYT, Guardian, WSJ, etc. One would imagine that such outlets would have reporters on flights immediately. A spill larger than the Valdez would certainly be news-worthy!

There are no photos of this spill in the article, except for a photo of some tainted water that could be anywhere and an irrelevant photo of salt-water contamination. I'd think that a spill of this magnitude would have highly visible proof from drone or even satellite photos, on the ground, etc. Did all of the gas condensate, and evidence, seep into a massive hole in the ground?

The sole piece of "evidence" is what appears to be an email with all identifying information, logos, etc removed. Even the alleged company or investigating agencies are redacted. It doesn't appear to be an official form, purchase order, etc. It could have been completely fabricated in ten minutes in Google Docs. No deep fakes necessary.

In fact, @mods, the HN headline should probably be changed from the submitter's Whistle-blower reveals N Dakota leak of 11M gallons of gas condensate in 2015 to the actual Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez? Even the blog's headline is a question and not an answer.

As hackers/scientists/intellectuals, we should be asking for facts, hard data, and photographic evidence.

Since you mention drones, this Browns University exhibition (#NoDAPL Movement) in Providence, RI is fascinating, https://www.brown.edu/research/facilities/haffenreffer-museu... and a talk makes some content available to those not in RI: https://www.brown.edu/academics/race-ethnicity/events/sioux-... seeing the footage is interesting for hackers/scientists/intellectuals, but I link these because the establishment made it hard to get that evidence.

It's not necessarily about the story; it's more about the narrative. When viewed this way, these unsubstantiated reports make a lot more sense. The truth isn't necessarily the goal; it's the message.

> over 11 million gallons of condensate that leaked through a crack in a pipeline for over 3 years

These companies are making way too much money if they can survive for 3 years leaking that much oil.

At the current price of oil, a gallon of oil comes out to $1.34.

That's about $15 million, which though not 0, is not going to have an effect on the vast majority of oil companies.

It would be nice if this price for accounting, not just for consumption, always included the negative externalities. At least this number would then be 2-5x+ as high.

I'm not sure that condensate is the same thing as "oil" - if I am thinking correctly, it's probably closer in appearance to lighter fluid than anything else. Still nasty in large quantities, but not a great loss of monetary value.

condensate isn't oil. It's what's used to thin out bitumen so that it'll flow through a pipe.

That figure means nothing without knowing the quantity of oil that doesn't leak.

who this hurts most is north dakotan residents and their kids who will be drinking this and bathing in it as it seeps into the aquifer

Yup. The specific stuff released here is LNAPL[1], which is basically the light liquid components like alkanes, benzene etc. which all flow right along at the highest point of groundwater. They've been going directly into the groundwater and probably drinking water for over a decade. These things are toxic and carcinogenic. If not for the fact that ongoing pollution and spills have rendered the gulf of Mexico a hypoxic dead zone, this would probably be the biggest direct loss of life expectancy from (direct) US pollution.

[1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sci...

It’s on a native American reservation. Has there ever been a time in the history of North Dakota that the state has held any sort of priority for its natives? Even without the oil industry being involved?

The state of North Dakota has direct financial incentive from the oil industry. The profit margin is great enough that they can afford to lose millions of gallons of oil over a few year period and still have resources to cover it all up.

I don’t foresee the state changing its priorities anytime soon. I believe fixing this will take federal oversight or intervention of some kind.

Edit: This particular spill was not on a reservation, but the article talks to people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation who have been affected by spills on many occasions. Many of my sentiments remain.

The spill was in Watford City, which is not on a reservation.

You’re correct. I was confusing another part of the article that talked to folks on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation

I can't think of a more compelling illustration of the need for leadership at every level of government, business, and society promoting environmental stewardship, including each of us who can reduce consumption, vote, and lead others to follow suit.

We can't rely on a Swedish 16-year-old with autism any more.

We have to rely on a 16 year old because governments are not providing any sort of environmental stewardship. Or any sort of leadership at all for a few decades.

It's no wonder people arrive at adulthood with the impression the lunatics are running the asylum and there's no alternative to their own direct action.

Why is her autism relevant?

the reason why you have to stop this kind of thing is because the people who are responsible are the same people behind the destruction of unions, public transportation, universal healthcare, etc. they think they are outsmarting us by getting away with crimes and stealing from us.

if you don't punish the criminals they will keep committing crimes. and no getting rid of laws (deregulation) will not stop criminals from committing crimes.

This is appalling, but the comparison is a bit disingenuous.

It's not crude oil, and it's not in the ocean where it spreads to coat an entire coastline.

It's worse, the specific stuff released here is LNAPL[1], which is basically the light liquid components like alkanes, benzene etc. They all flow right along at the highest point of groundwater. They've been going directly into the groundwater and probably drinking water for over a decade. These things are toxic and carcinogenic; they don't even put benzene in gasoline any more because just being around it for long enough will give you leukemia.

right, it's in the ground water that people are drinking.

That does seem likely, and is another reason the comparison isn't great. The nature and impact of the two situations are wildly different in various ways.

Downplaying this so much is a bit disingenuous, I think. It’s already shown to be having a negative impact, without the spill being properly investigated yet.

The real problem comes down to the state giving priority to the industry instead of its own people.

The ongoing practice of minimal reporting of these incidents, as well as the conspiring to cover it up, should be investigated, and those involved should be held responsible.

Native North Dakotan here... and this really pisses me off.

On a sidenote, I find it odd this story has a lot upvotes in such a short amount time, yet it's dropped from the top story to now the 15th result on the frontpage below stories that are older with fewer votes?

It happens when a story is flagged. Flagging the story (or iirc a lot of people flagging comments in a story’s comments section) will cause it to drop. I think it’s sad that people would flag this story.

Maybe it's the relatively low number of comments? (22 as of this post)

Woah, WTF.

It had more votes than any story above it, except one, and the votes to comments to time ratio was all better on this article.

Someone at HN really hates North Dakota, doesn't feel like a coverup is something techies should be talking about. Frustrating.

23th place and falling.


Or maybe it’s people flagging it because it’s unsubstantiated so far.

Seems like a metric that should be made visible, no? I mean... if we see votes, we should see flags... otherwise, flags are just a way to secretly control what people can see on the site.

Now, how is US different from China again?


What will you do different tomorrow?

Why did it take a whistle-blower to break this news?

Why did he/she refused to give out their identity?

Again, how is US different from China in "covering up" you know what.

    * national embarrassments

China is a country in Asia, the US is a country in North America. There are many other differences that you will be able to find if you put a small amount of effort into researching such a question.

simply awful

There is a difference between a coverup and not informative reporting.

From the article:

"That is despite the fact that a North Dakota regulator has acknowledged the spill was much larger, and even the official record, right after stating the spill was 10 gallons, notes that the area was “saturated with natural gas condensate of an unknown volume,” and thus may have been larger."

Hardly a coverup if they immediately stated the area is "saturated".

Reporting it as a ten gallon spill isn't mere incompetence.

> Suess readily acknowledged that the officially listed spill size was too low. “We know it is significantly bigger than 10 gallons. We have known that since Day One,” Suess continued. Yet he defended the state’s decision to continue to list the spill as just 10 gallons.

As someone that is familiar with the software which powers a lot of the Oil and gas regulatory bodies in the US, this is not uncommon. It is basically all up to inspectors and regulators to determine and enter this data, with no tie back to actual measurements or integration to sensors that track well output or detect leaks/spills. Inspectors are typically former industry workers and may have perverse reporting incentives. Places like ND and WV are rife with corruption between wealthy drilling corps and regulatory bodies.

> Inspectors are typically former industry workers and may have perverse reporting incentives. Places like ND and WV are rife with corruption between wealthy drilling corps and regulatory bodies.

This is a major part of the wider issue. Regulatory bodies are financially incentivized to not work as intended. There needs to be a restructuring of the current incentives, so as to balance the priorities of the people and the planet.

Unfortunately, the rule makers are the profit takers, so don’t expect them to self regulate..

"... but it would be deception if I listed it as larger than 10 gallons because I don't know _how much_ larger than 10 gallons it is!"

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