News

WHAT IS BEST FOR BOWMAN? Lieutenant Governor speaks in Bowman

North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Drew Wrigley spoke to the Bowman chamber and made some “interesting” points.

Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley accepted an invitation to speak April 21 at the Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce’s member meeting. Wrigley gave general thoughts and information about oil growth, development, and the agricultural industry. PHOTO BY BRYCE MARTIN / PIONEER
Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley accepted an invitation to speak April 21 at the Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce’s member meeting. Wrigley gave general thoughts and information about oil growth, development, and the agricultural industry. PHOTO BY BRYCE MARTIN / PIONEER

Posted April 25, 2014

By BRYCE MARTIN | Pioneer Editor | bmartin@countrymedia.net

BOWMAN — When it comes to oil, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley said North Dakotans could deal with its complicated and controversial issues well.

Wrigley accepted Bowman Area Chamber of Commerce President Chris Johnson’s invitation to speak at the chamber’s April 21 member meeting, which was attended by several area business owners and officials to represent the Bowman area.

Over his half-hour-long speech, Wrigley made no specific statements regarding oil heading to Bowman, but spoke in general about the regional Bakken oil boom.

He explained that while the state is the fastest growing in the nation, it comes with a price. A price, he said, North Dakotans can afford to pay.

The state is only seeing five percent of the Bakken’s oil capacity and drilling would likely continue for the next 20 or 30 years, Wrigley said. Even though great problems stem from oil and gas exploration, he said North Dakota could deal with them.

North Dakota in the last six years produced jobs and increased wages faster than any other state, he said. Still, Wrigley said the complaints “continue to roll in.”

The state’s government has been criticized for several key problems spurred by the oil activity and subsequent jump in population, including a lack of housing and overcrowded schools.

“Now there’s other things we’re doing wrong. We didn’t build them a house … and their kid had to sit in a school that was kind of cramped,” he said. “Those are problems of prosperity, but they are rich man problems.”

Wrigley said many of the funds allocated to the Bowman area through oil impact grants in the last few years went towards growing the community’s EMS, schools, and making infrastructure improvements. But he recognized the area needed more.

In the last legislative session, taxes were cut greater than ever before in state history, made possible by the ever-growing presence of oil exploration, according to Wrigley.

“We hear from your representatives and senators out here that they think there needs to be more to come out for the impacts in this part of the state and they’re right,” he said. “You’ve got people out here who know this community and bring that message out to Bismarck and people out there are responding.”

While Wrigley said in his speech that people around the state are getting the story of life in oil country, later he admitted that the eastern portion of the state, and perhaps the middle, doesn’t understand the full picture of what oil development is causing for certain communities.

“There’s strain on our communities and it’s real, but it’s a blessing,” he said.

There are a lot of “squabbles” going on over oil as Wrigley said there still are many unanswered questions about development and revenues from the oil boom.

“What should the formulas look like? Where should the money go? Are we doing enough? Are we meeting those challenges? Are we being fair?” he said.

Wrigley said opponents in the last gubernatorial election, even though they unsuccessfully fought politically across two or three decades in the state, would like to help split up the money coming from the state’s growing economy.

“Before they ask for support, they ought to ask for forgiveness,” he said.

The state has a stewardship obligation for the land and way of life but for those weary of oil drilling, Wrigley had a simple message: It’s a way of humankind.

Wrigley made a point during his speech to single out humanities scholar and North Dakota native Clay Jenkinson, who also pens editorial columns for the Bismarck Tribune, for his public opposition to expanded oil drilling and the state government’s practices when handling oil-related legislation.

“We draw natural resources that God gave us from the earth and we do it in a way that respects the environment,” he said. “But we also recognize that you don’t have a God-given right to never see a well head going up and down.”

Wrigley mockingly said Jenkinson, who resides near his home in Bismarck, can leave his home’s lights on for two weeks at a time, drive his Jeep, and fly around the world and thinks that no one would ever have to extract any oil from the ground.

“That’s not the way the world works,” Wrigley said.

Wrigley then paid homage to the state’s agricultural business when he noted that, despite the oil sector growth, it’s the No. 1 component to the state’s economy.

“It’s not simply an oil-based economy; we’re still an ag-based economy. Our farmers and ranchers are still the backbone of our economy,” he said.

In an effort to spur advancement in technology for farmers, Wrigley joined other North Dakota legislators in Grand Forks earlier in the day to meet with the administrator of the Federal Aviation Authority, who designated the state as the first test site to be certified in the unmanned airspace initiative happening across the country.

Wrigley said the use of drones, which is a controversial topic across the United States, has its pros and cons, including people’s concerns over privacy, safety, and impact on commercial aviation. But he said it is the fastest growing component in aviation.

“We’ve got to figure out ways to safely integrate the manned and unmanned airspace,” he said.

Eighty percent of drones would be used for farming and ranching. It also would create high-tech jobs to find ways to use drones for an added value to farms and ranches.

“Here in North Dakota, we’re an island of prosperity,” he said.

Contact Bryce Martin at bmartin@countrymedia.net.