Senators Kent Conrad, John Hoeven, and Congressman Rick Berg travelled with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar today to western North Dakota to inspect oil drilling operations taking place on federal lands.
"The Secretary today is getting a taste for the oil boom here in North Dakota. While the majority of Bakken development is taking place in the Williston Basin, oil and gas production is expanding on federal lands in the Dickinson area," Senator Conrad said. "North Dakota can be the powerhouse for the nation. Working together with Secretary Salazar and the Administration, we hope to streamline oil and gas development in North Dakota and unlock our state's full energy potential."
The North Dakota leaders also stressed the need for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. They asked Secretary Salazar to encourage the Administration to approve TransCanada's permit application expeditiously while Nebraska works to identify a route for the pipeline that is acceptable to that state.
"Secretary Salazar's visit to North Dakota's oil patch underscores our state's growing production and need for infrastructure," Senator Hoeven said. "That was particularly evident during his visit to a crude oil production facility where oil is processed, stored and transported via rail, truck and pipeline, as well as his tour of a man camp. At the same time, the pace of development also reflects the pressing and timely need for the Keystone XL pipeline to help us reduce wear and tear on our roads and transport our product to market in the safest, most efficient way possible. The project has been under review for more than three and a half years, and we need the support of the secretary and the administration to get the Keystone XL pipeline underway as soon as possible."
"The nation has taken note of North Dakota's growing energy sector and the new economic opportunities it's created. Secretary Salazar's visit allowed him to see first-hand the potential our state holds for filling our nation's energy needs and the need for common sense policies that encourage energy production within our borders. Part of that is removing regulatory barriers that impact many of the production sites we saw today. We also need to expeditiously moving forward the Keystone XL pipeline. This project holds tremendous potential for North Dakota's energy sector and will help move Bakken crude oil to U.S. refineries, provide relief to the strained infrastructure needs in western North Dakota, and create much needed American jobs," Congressman Berg said.
The Secretary and members of the Congressional delegation toured a crude oil production facility and spoke with workers about efforts to expand domestic oil and gas production in the region. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) -- an agency within the Interior Department -- manages more than 4.1 million acres of mineral estate in western North Dakota and about 58,000 acres of public land, mostly in Dunn and Bowman Counties. BLM manages approximately 1,700 oil and gas leases.
The delegation toured a 600-bedroom man camp, a residence hall used by workers from all over the country who are coming to North Dakota for high-paying jobs.
The Congressional delegation also discussed a wide range of North Dakota issues with Secretary Salazar including the progress of leasing and development of oil and gas on federal lands. Senators Conrad and Hoeven noted that reports they requested from the US Geological Survey show that the Bakken has 4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and that estimate is likely to rise given the possibility of tapping into the Three Forks Formation.
Senators Hoeven and Conrad thanked the Secretary for approving their request last year for a new survey of the Bakken reserves, which industry experts believe will show a higher level of recoverable reserves than the earlier study. That will encourage important private-sector investment in Western North Dakota to go with the public infrastructure investments the Congressional delegation has worked to secure on the federal level. New private-sector investments would include investments in housing, retail and other community infrastructure. The Congressional delegation has also asked Secretary Salazar to work with the state on repair of tribal roads, which are seeing significant impacts due to oil and gas development. At the same time, the delegation said it's important that the Secretary work with North Dakota on hydraulic fracturing and a commonsense permitting process for appropriate energy development on tribal and federal lands.
North Dakota is the nation's third largest oil producing state, producing 159 million barrels in 2011, a 40 percent increase over 2010.