A remarkable transformation is underway in western North Dakota, where an oil boom is changing the state's fortunes and leaving once-sleepy towns bursting at the seams. In a series of stories, NPR is exploring the economic, social and environmental demands of this modern-day gold rush.
North Dakota's oil boom isn't just about oil; a lot of natural gas comes out of the ground at the same time. But there's a problem with that: The state doesn't have the pipelines needed to transport all of that gas to market. There's also no place to store it.
Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 7:26 pm
SEATTLE -- Washington lawmakers took up a proposal Wednesday to require more transparency from companies that transport oil through the state.
The hearing on House Bill 2347 played out before a packed committee room in Olympia. The new bill would require oil companies to file weekly reports with the state Department of Ecology detailing how much oil is being transported, what kind of oil it is, how it’s being moved and what route it’s traveling through the state.
A small percentage of trains carrying hazardous materials are inspected as they move through Oregon and Washington. Safety advocates and legislators are more concerned about what federal regulations allow than the fewer than 1 percent of cars found with safety violations.
An alert, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday said that the crude oil coming out of the Bakken formation of North Dakota poses a “significant risk” because it is more flammable than traditional heavy crude.
On Thursday morning Shell Oil will be meeting with officials from a county in Washington state to talk about plans to build a rail extension to deliver oil from North Dakota to its refinery near Puget Sound.
Oil companies still may find a way to move huge, so-called “megaloads” through a scenic corridor in Idaho, once traveled by Lewis and Clark. But for now at least, opponents of the extra-large shipments are hoping government red tape has closed that option.
UPDATE 7/10/13, 4:09 p.m. PT: The Associated Press is reporting that the death toll for the Quebec train crash that rocked a small town over the weekend has reached 50. Canadian officials have declared that the missing people in the explosion are now presumed dead.
The tragedy has given the commissioners of the Port of Vancouver in Washington pause as they consider a proposal for a terminal to move oil from trains onto ships.
The weekend’s deadly oil-train derailment and explosion in the Canadian province of Quebec has raised concerns in the Pacific Northwest, where there are several proposals to increase the amount of oil transported into to the region by train.
By Monday afternoon the confirmed death toll had reached 13, with 50 people still missing after Saturday’s derailment of more than 70 tanker cars. They were filled with oil from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota — home of the largest oil boom in recent US history.
Shell Oil Co. had to postpone its Arctic drilling until 2014 after one of its oil rigs ran aground off the Alaska coast this winter, but Shell’s efforts to open a new frontier of oil exploration in the Arctic Ocean continue in Puget Sound.
The oil giant passed a key test with federal regulators in March in the waters off Anacortes, Wash., north of Seattle.
While policymakers debate the government’s budget, the Brookings Institute, a private nonprofit research organization, decided to host their own brainstorming session. They asked experts from all different fields to submit ideas for responsible deficit reduction.
One expert, Harvard professor Joseph Aldy, drafted a proposal eliminating oil and gas tax subsidies. A move Aldy estimates would save the US government $41 billion over 10 years.