U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., toured oil production facilities and associated sites in North Dakota's Bakken region on Monday and Tuesday. The two-day tour of western North Dakota's oil patch highlighted the economic boom occurring in parts of the Heartland where energy development is being embraced as an opportunity to create jobs, drive economic activity and deliver the energy America needs.
"It's amazing to see how quickly things are happening here," Murkowski said. "Thousands of new homes are going up almost overnight, as are new roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure, all because of the economic boom brought on by oil production in the Bakken."
"The jobs just don't stop at the wellhead either," Murkowski said. "Oil production is driving jobs in construction, retail, education, healthcare -- all the way down to pizza delivery. The economic opportunity around Williston is endless. "
In Williston, a town of 20,000 residents, Murkowski and Hoeven visited crew camps capable of housing 10,000 oil field workers and talked with people from across the country who have come to North Dakota for good jobs, including a surprising number of Alaskans. Outside the temporary camps, construction workers from across the country, including the Alaska-based Petersen Group, are busy erecting more than 2,000 apartment buildings and single-family homes each year to provide permanent residences for workers and their families.
Williston is at the center of North Dakota's oil boom and has been ranked as the fastest-growing small metropolitan area in the country by the U.S. Census Bureau. The city has the highest taxable sales of any community in North Dakota. Rapid growth has contributed to the state having the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, and at the same time, put new demands on the region's infrastructure and public services. Williston's mayor, Ward Koeser, has channeled the economic boom created by Bakken oil production into more resources to build a vibrant, family oriented community.
"The rapid pace of development certainly has its challenges, but North Dakota leaders aren't complaining. They're rolling up their sleeves and getting to work building better communities. Folks like Williston Mayor Koeser are truly an inspiration to us all," Murkowski said. "We're talking about a state with the lowest jobless rate in the nation and $1 billion budget surplus. Imagine how strong we'd be as a nation if other regions -- and especially the federal government -- followed North Dakota's example."
A decade ago Bakken oil was considered too expensive to develop, but advances in drilling technology and a competitive state tax regime have propelled North Dakota's oil production to 675,000 barrels a day, second only to Texas. North Dakota has also put in place strong environmental protections and regulations on drilling to ensure hydraulic fracturing is done responsibly and without endangering local drinking water.
In addition to reviewing the technological advances used to recover oil and gas from the Bakken shale, the senators also met with community leaders in Williston and Tioga to discuss local infrastructure needs, including the need for pipelines to transport the oil to refineries. The vast majority of the area's oil is sent out to refineries by truck and rail.
"I'm truly amazed at the pace of development in western North Dakota," Murkowski said. "It reminds me of the Alaska I grew up in. And an Alaska I hope will one day be again."
Murkowski and Hoeven have been working together on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to advance the nation's energy policies. Murkowski's visit to North Dakota is her fourth visit this year to a leading oil-producing part of the United States. She also visited the Gulf of Mexico, the Marcellus, and the Arctic to view oil and gas production and infrastructure.