Living in northwestern Minnesota, we often hear more about what’s going on in North Dakota than our own state. Lately, the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota dominate the news. Individuals from our area have temporarily relocated west for work; and land prices here are being driven up by out-of-state buyers flush with oil money.
Living in a county that 1) relies mostly on farming, and 2) is losing population faster than anywhere else in Minnesota, local leaders are always looking for economic development opportunities. Because of this, we’re more likely to turn a blind eye when faced with the negative consequences that come with these so-called opportunities. So, it’s not a surprise that some look longingly at the oil boom. I, for one, see a huge mess.
The impact on North Dakota’s natural resources, including water and land, rising crime and infrastructure like roads and housing are serious and verging on a crisis. Because of the chemicals used in fracking, reports of ground water contamination and noxious fumes sickening animals and humans are becoming more common. Are these headaches worth it?
The daily headlines focus on the money, rolling in to create a sizable surplus in their general fund. Unemployment is much lower than the rest of the country. Individuals are flocking to the state in record numbers looking for jobs. Who wouldn’t like that? But the question must be asked: what is the real cost?
Missing from the discussion and the all the hoopla is environmental health and sustainability. Lawmakers and leaders in the state are blinded by dollar signs. Who will pay the clean up costs? Where will their water come from when it’s all gone? Besides the environmental devastation, we need to be aware our neighbors may come knocking on Minnesota’s door for assistance in dealing with the problems that will arise. How will we respond?
If economic development focuses only on the economic health and job growth, but continues to ignore sustainability, specifically the environmental effects, we will only come out behind. Sometimes, the cost is just too great.
How much is your health worth? What about safe drinking water?