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Excerpts from recent North Dakota editorials

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BISMARCK, North Dakota — Williston Herald, Williston, March 6, 2015

Between Barack and a hard place

In the last month, two trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and erupted in two separate locations around the nation, sending large fireballs and plumes of black smoke into the sky.

The result is chilling to an extent, because so far, the Bakken region has been spared of the potentially destructive explosions that we've seen Galena, Illinois and Charleston, West Virginia, among others in past years.

On the other hand, last month, we also saw the destructive nature of pipelines — the so-called safer way to transport crude instead of by rail and truck. In February, a pipeline burst and tainted the water supply in Glendive, Montana, while a saltwater leak scorched land near Blacktail Creek outside Williston.

Two ways to move valuable crude oil, four national headlines, and we haven't even surpassed the end of the first quarter of 2015.

What is the Bakken to do with this problem?

We have a decent proposal: Permit the pipelines, increase regulation on those lines and stabilize Bakken crude. Sounds simple, but sadly the solution to protect people in the Williston Basin is muddied in politics.

President Barack Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline last week, which wouldn't have shipped mass amounts of Bakken crude, but something is better than nothing. And the reason for its dismissal seems nothing more than a politically-motivated power struggle, veiled by environmental concerns.

Far from us to say pipelines don't present a possible hazard to the land and water, but in light of a Reuters exclusive report on the Obama Administration this week, the president should consider taking his veto back.

According to the report, the administration and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had concerns over the makeup and volatility of Bakken crude, expressing doubts that the new 1232 standard tanker cars would solve every part of the problem.

But when North Dakota proposed its new rules on Bakken crude's makeup, which are set to go in place next month, the administration backed off to see how North Dakota's new regulations panned out.

The jury is still out, but if the state's efforts to reduce the vapor gas "cocktail" that causes crude to explode so easily doesn't work, increased scrutiny should deservedly go to the state and federal authorities.

While we appreciate the federal government stepping aside for a state's regulations, we have to wonder what the tipping point will be. With tanker cars traveling through the heart of our city and close to one of our schools, we'd prefer oil volatility be worked out before half of downtown is incinerated by the next Bakken bomb.

If North Dakota's upcoming regulations aren't enough, more efforts into stabilization need to happen, even if it means the worst-case scenario that they're pushed by an administration dead-set on denying a solution.

Which brings us back to pipelines. Permitting the lines, and passing strengthened checks and regulations to prevent spills due to failures or erosion has to happen for it to be the solution. Tanker cars cause sudden damage, but spills have their obvious health and environmental downfall potential, too.

We don't want to over-regulate the oil industry out of North Dakota, rather ask it to do enough to ensure the seemingly basic safety measures are covered in regard to crude transportation.

And that's where we are as the Williston people — between a rock and a hard place — hoping to find solutions that gain the Obama Administration's approval, while not chasing the state's No. 2 economic driver out on a 1232 tanker car full of politically explosive regulations.


Minot Daily News, Minot, March 11, 2015

Bishop Ryan breathing rarified air

Excellence. Teamwork. Dedication. Perfection.

Over the last three years, those words have described the Bishop Ryan girls basketball team. On Saturday, the Lions set a standard few have ever reached, winning their third straight Class B basketball championship. During that streak, the Bishop Ryan girls have been almost unbeatable, winning more than 80 straight games against Class B competition. The only blemish the Lions have had in the last two years was a loss to Class A No. 1-ranked Shanley earlier this season.

But that loss, in which Ryan proved it could compete with the best teams at the state's highest level, was the only setback for a team that has dominated Class B basketball for the last four years. During that stretch, the Lions have proven time and again they are and were the best team in North Dakota.

While Bishop Ryan made things look easy, we can promise it wasn't. For every win, the Lions put in hours on the practice court. For every basket, the Bishop Ryan girls took two shots when no one was watching. In the state championship game last year, Bishop Ryan trailed by eight in the fourth quarter, but found a way to rally for the win.

Last weekend, the Lions again faced a stiff challenge from unbeaten Kindred in the final, but in the second half Ryan pulled away to cap another amazing season.

With their best two players graduating in 2015, a fourth straight title may seem like a long shot. But the girls who are returning to proudly carry on the Lion tradition are already working with 2016 in mind.

There are certainly no guarantees on the basketball court, but we are confident the Bishop Ryan Lions will come back next year and give everything they have to defend their title — just like they have the last two years.


The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, March 11, 2015

Higher education meetings should remain open

The Bismarck Tribune has consistently opposed efforts to weaken the state's open meetings and records laws. Senate Bill 2134 would allow the hiring and firing of the North Dakota chancellor be done in executive session. This process has been open in the past and worked. The measure also would allow the state Board of Higher Education to conduct evaluations of university presidents and the chancellor in closed session.

These efforts to exclude North Dakotans from the public's business should be rejected. If there are issues with a university president or the chancellor they should be aired in a manner where the public can make their own judgments. The university personnel are employees of the public and should answer to them through open meetings of the board.

Things got messy at the end of Chancellor Hamid Shirvani's tenure when some of his reviews of presidents became public before a board meeting was held. Before the board could discuss the evaluations in public, weighing the pros and cons of the reviews, the public was hearing about the documents without any context. The hiring and firing of chancellors and evaluations of the presidents should be done in public. Closing them just increases the temptation to leak the documents.

During Senate hearings it was argued that the bill isn't intended to protect university presidents but to encourage a frank discussion during evaluations. Why shouldn't the public know if there are areas that need improvement? Must the doors be closed to have an honest discussion?

Jack McDonald, an attorney for the North Dakota Newspaper Association, noted the open meeting process has been working and urged the committee not to change it.

The Senate passed SB2134 and the final decision rests with the House.

The Board of Higher Education has a lousy record when it comes to open meetings with numerous violations over the last few years. When people can't obey the law do we change it? The best way for the board to rebuild its reputation is to conduct its business in the open. The public can regain its faith in the board by observing them conducting their business in an open, orderly manner.

Keeping the law as is will best serve the public and the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.


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