According to the Associated Press, the nation’s second largest oil-producing state, North Dakota, failed to inform the public of almost 300 oil pipeline spills in the last two years.
Even though many of the spills were small, “[t]he public really should know about these,” Don Morrison, the director of the Dakota Resource Council, told the AP. “If there is a spill, sometimes a landowner may not even know about it. And if they do, people think it’s an isolated incident that’s only happening to them.”
Reporting such spills is significant, because even a barrel of oil could ruin water supplies, which would ruin countless acres of arable soil.
The director of the Department of Mineral Resources, Lynn Helms, told the Associated Press that companies are worried about “over-reporting” spills. The state is trying to strike a balance so that “the public is aware of what’s happening, but not overwhelmed by little incidents.”
One wheat farmer told the AP that he’s in favor of receiving information about every incident, since his livelihood depends on his land. He’s worried because the policy at the moment is “[w]hat you don’t know, nobody’s going to tell you.”
“It would tell me if there is enough oversight and why these accidents happen and if they could have been avoided,” he said. “Right now, you don’t know if there is a spill unless you find it yourself.”
Earlier this month, one of Kuster’s neighbors did just that, but North Dakota officials never informed him why truckloads of oil-stricken dirt were being removed from his neighbor’s farm.
“We have no idea how big the spill is and why it happened,” he said. “I’d try to get more information from the state but I’m too busy getting my harvest in.”