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More Fracking Tragedies for Farmers and Ranchers in North Dakota

Amy Mall's picture
  • Member since 2018
  • 51 items added with 22,653 views
  • Dec 9, 2012

Recently I blogged about the Schilke ranch in the Bakken shale, which has 32 oil wells within three miles of it. The Schilkes have sick cattle and pets, and the Schilkes themselves report they are seriously ill.

A new article in The Guardian tells the story of other North Dakota farmers and ranchers who are experiencing financial or personal ruin due to Bakken drilling. 

There are at least 25 oil wells within two miles of the Jorgensen ranch in the Bakken shale. The Guardian explains how the Jorgensens’ lives changed dramatically beginning in 2010. That year they report that they lost 80 olive trees due to a combination of wellpad and pit construction, a loss of their water source, and exposure to fracking fluid. Then in 2012, their seven-year-old granddaughter woke up screaming from a headache and Mrs. Jorgensen stopped hanging laundry outside because the air burned her nostrils. An emergency on their ranch heightened their feelings of helplessness: a gas flare went out out and they smelled hydrogen sulfide, which can be fatal. They did not have an emergency contact for the oil company and there wasn’t even any way to leave a message on the company’s office phone.

This article also tells the story of Don Nelson, a wheat and hay farmer. A seven-acre well pad was built in the middle of a 20-acre field, and made the entire 20 acres useless to him. He still has to pay taxes on the 20 acres of unusable farmland. We have heard similar stories from other farmers around the country in split estate situations.

The Guardian article, like the article in The Nation, discusses the massive dust problems in the Bakken. As I blogged about previously, some cattle are dying from dust pneumonia. One rancher reports that her cattle sometimes reject their feed because “It’s so full of dirt you have to wash it or nothing will eat it,” and “Sometimes the hay has so much dirt the cattle won’t even lay on it.”

North Dakota has experienced spills, blow-outs, accidents, and now apparently serious harm to its residents and their livelihoods. State regulators need to create much stronger rules and greatly increase enforcement, especially for split estate victims.

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Ronald Weedbaum's picture
Ronald Weedbaum on Dec 10, 2012

These are all issues that need to be dealt with and I agree with your post in all but one way - why do you call these fracking tragedies? These problems have little or nothing to do with fracking itself but everything to do with oil and gas development. These problems would occur if the wells were not being fracked.   You mislead your readers a bit with this misuse of the term fracking.   The misuse of the term has led to a lot of misunderstanding.  Tragedy also seems a bit strong, but these certainly are real problems.

More oil and gas development problems in North Dakota might be a more appropriate title.

I do strongly agree with you that some allowance needs to be made for people who have drilling on their land but are not being compensated. Are these people really receiving no compensation at all?





Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Dec 11, 2012

Fracked wells, exposure to fracking fluid hmm, IT'S A FRACKING PROBLEM YOU IJIT!  Stop trying to sugar coat the truth.  Fracking is a big problem and it's just getting bigger.  Stop fracking the wells and the problems go away!  Farmers losing their livelyhood due to the stupidity is a tragedy!  You mislead readers by trying to divert attention from the real threat fracking poses.

Ronald Weedbaum's picture
Ronald Weedbaum on Dec 12, 2012

Most people who understand this issue now agree that the actual fracking process itself is not that much of a problem.  Fracking is the actual process of pumping water sand and chemicals underground to create fractures. This process has not been shown to contaminate groundwater. Any groundater problems that have occurred have been as a result of spills on the surface or faulty well casing allowing shallow methane that is sourced from zones far above the formation that is being hydraulically fractured to migrate upward. You can make the argument that the development would not be occurring if it were not for the discovery that the combination of long horizontal wells and high volume hydraulic fracturing would enable economic production from these zones and that is correct. But the real problems in this case are:

Truck traffic (a real problem)

Dust (this sounds like a real problem in that area)

Open pits (can be a problem though not always)

Methane flaring during oil production (a real problem that should be banned)

Split surface and mineral rights (in fact that is what most of this article was about).

Fumes (sounds like this was a problem but I have not heard of this happening very often)

Fracking itself was never shown to be a problem. So the attention should be placed on mitigating these other problems, not on fracking.  The article was written by someone who wanted to show fracking in the worst possible light (as I am sure Amy and you want to as well) and perhaps by someone who did not actually even know what fracking was. Some people lump the entire process together and call it all fracking. That is not accurate and this confusion has led to more conflict than is necessary and to less positive action on real problems.

I am not that sold on oil production via fracking, but gas production from fracking has been a godsend for people who are concerned about the environment. It has enabled dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and water pollution here in the US.  Gas mainly competes with coal and when gas is cheap it displaces coal. Gas is only cheap because of shale gas and fracking. Coal is far worse for the environment in every way. GHG emissions and other pollution in Europe are going up and one of the main reasons is that they have banned fracking in several promising areas and natural gas has become very expensive there. So they are burning more coal.  This is largely a result of people who frankly don't really understand the issue scaring the crap out of people over there about fracking.  



Amy Mall's picture
Amy Mall on Dec 12, 2012

Dear Concerned Scientist: You ask why I called these fracking tragedies and state that these problems would occur if the wells were not being fracked. While I agree that some problems would occur even if the wells were not fracked, I do not agree that all would occur. Take truck traffic. A conventional well does not come close to requiring the hundreds or thousands of truck trips required to haul fracking water and chemicals and then haul the wastewater. And while open pits might be required for conventional wells, there would not be nearly as many pits, pits as large as these are, or as much toxic waste without fracking. Fumes come from the flaring, as well as from pits. Fracking leads to emissions of hundreds of times the amount of toxic air pollutants when compared to wells that are not fracked during completion.

While North Dakota law provides for payments to a surface owner if there are damages, the amount of damages have to be agreed upon by the oil company. As you might imagine, surface owners are rarely if ever truly fully compensated for the harms they endure and cannot control on their own property.

Ronald Weedbaum's picture
Ronald Weedbaum on Dec 12, 2012

It may seem too fine a point, but working to solve the problems associated with truck traffic would probably be more productive and useful than talking about fracking. The fracking itself isn't the problem. You are correct that the truck traffic would not be what it is if the wells were not being fracked. I am just for discussiing what the actual problems are and not further confusing the issue by calling truck traffic problems fracking problems. Lets call dust problems dust problems, truck traffic problems truck traffic problems, pit problems pit problems etc.  Companies are coming up with some creative ways to solve these issues or at least reduce their impact. It would be great to see you come up with some good ideas to make these problems better.

Do you think fracking should be banned? Would you support a ban on all hydraulic fracturing in the US and the world? If you don't then you should focus on fixing the actual problems rather than scaring people by lumping everything together and calling it fracking.

If you do support a total ban, then do you see that this will lead to increased coal use and increased GHG, air and water pollution? It is fantasy to think otherwise. What would be your solution to that problem?


Alain Verbeke's picture
Alain Verbeke on Dec 14, 2012

" GHG emissions and other pollution in Europe are going up and one of the main reasons is that they have banned fracking in several promising areas and natural gas has become very expensive there. So they are burning more coal.  This is largely a result of people who frankly don't really understand the issue scaring the crap out of people over there about fracking.   "

concerned scientist, euh, excuse me, O&G salesman, you are again misleading people.

GHG emissions in Europe have been seriously declining since the inception of the Kyoto Protocol that the USA refused to sign, in 1990.

We are now well on our way to decrease our GHG emissions by MUCH more than the demanded 20% in the year 2020, while in the meantime our economy will have grown by more than 30%. Yes, that required some work: we invested in alternative energy resources (not always wisely, but we are getting there), and invested in laws demanding a major increase of energy efficiency across the board, be it cars, trucks, trains, boats, airplanes, housing, industrial energy consumption.

None of that happened in the USSA.,,5401870,00.html


The European Union officially adopted a 20-20-20 Renewable Energy Directive on Dec. 17 2008 setting goals for the next decade. The targets call for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, a 20 percent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency by 2020 and a increase to 20 percent in the use of renewable energy by 2020. In 2005 renewable energies accounted for less than seven percent of the EU’s total energy consumption.


Brussels, 18 November 2009. The agreement will strengthen the building codes and energy performance requirements for buildings across the EU and fixes 2020 as deadline for all new buildings to be nearly zero energy buildings. Buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of EU CO2 emissions. It is estimated that, by strengthening the provisions of the Directive on energy performance, the EU could achieve a reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 70% of the current EU Kyoto target. In addition to this, these improvements could save citizens around Euro 300 per annum per household in their energy bills, while boosting the construction and building renovation industry in Europe.



More energy efficient buildings provide better living conditions and save money to all citizens. The estimated impact of the recast is energy savings of 60-80 Mtoe in 2020 or the total EU energy consumption will be reduced by 5-6%. The energy consumption of buildings varies enormously; whilst new buildings can need less than 3 to 5 litres of heating oil or equivalent per square meter floor area and year, the existing buildings stock consumes, on average, about 25 litres per square meter, some buildings even up to 60 litres. Available construction products and installation technologies can drastically improve the building's energy performance – and so reduce its energy consumption – and create net benefits: the annual energy cost savings are exceeding the annual capital costs for the investments. The best moment for energy improvements is when buildings are constructed or they are anyway renovated.

Mr Obama's plan would require the average US vehicle - cars and light trucks - to achieve 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, a 30 percent advance over current fuel standards.

China currently enforces an average fuel efficiency standard of 35.8 miles per gallon (mpg) and Japan demands 42.6 mpg.

Europe meanwhile requires vehicles achieve 43.3 mpg and by 2016 - the deadline of the Obama scheme - vehicles in the 27-country bloc will have to meet an efficiency standard of 50 mpg.

Using a slightly different measuring stick to that of the US, the EU would require that the average carbon emissions from all new cars be reduced by 18 percent to 130 grams per kilometer by 2015.

Fines for breaching the standard were also watered down. Originally to have been € 20 per excess grams, they are now to be only € 5 per grams.


Paul Felix Schott's picture
Paul Felix Schott on Dec 14, 2012

Hydraulic Fracturing a Danger to us All. Safe Drinking Water World Wide is Running OUT.

Why would anyone think we have water to waste.

Only the wicked in mind Leaders in this Nation and around the world would let anyone Pipe Pollution into the ground to get gas in return from the Ground. Most all scientist have know this for many years that this will end safe drinking water for all that are in the area of where they are fracturing, in which Millions of Gallons of Dangerous Poison Chemically Treated Water are forced underground to break up rock and free gas. We need regulations from GODLY People that will stop  10,000+ wells a year drilled using hydraulic fracturing to free and make the Dangerous Poison Chemicals underground into gas. The primarily affect will be unsafe drinking water and many will become sick. THE HEALTH OF MANY WILL DETERIORATE because of A Few Wicked Greedy Leaders. Those who have made these decisions do not know Jesus Christ. Soon He will say i know you not. They belong in jail soon it will be hell for them. What sick in mind would let or want anyone to put Dangerous Poison Chemicals underground or into the ground anywhere.

The wicked are trying to sell and tell all if it is not near your home or land it is safe. This is the biggest ling of horse manure. Do they think most of  We The People are that dumb or that most Americans lack any intelligence at all. What ever is put on or in the ground makes it way to our underground Aquifers, Rivers, Lakes and the Oceans. Every Scientist on Earth knows this and most all that have made it to eighth grade in school.

So why would any Leader with a good healthy mind ever say or want this?

Vote any wicked that has anything to do with this out of office they work for WE THE PEOPLE.

United We Stand In GOD We Trust

The Lord's Little Helper
Paul Felix Schott
Wicked Leaders telling their friends as long as you can cover it up and it will not get back to me it is ok with me. Are you sure we will not go to jail for making money by Polluting the ground and water. Of course not we make the laws to fit our needs not the health and welfare of others or as they used to say We The People. Its now the Wicked Leaders and rich Rule. Till our Lord GOD comes!

Solar Energy the way to go.
Many States Are and are Banning Fracking.

Archimedes and Albert Einstein
These two are at the top of the list of the World’s Greatest Scientists,
Viewed by Scientist around the World.

Sad that for the last 25 years or so of every teacher asked no matter what
Grade k through 16. At least 80% of them did not know Archimedes. Even sadder 90%
of them could not tell you what one of the most Brilliant Scientist to ever
live on Earth. Won the Nobel Prize for.

It was for the work Albert Einstein did to show the World it could get
Free Energy, Electric from the SUN. (THE PHOTOVOLTAIC EFFECT).

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