North Dakota oil boom comes with a price

Not too long ago we were all marveling at the “wonderful” oil boom in North Dakota with its increase in state wealth and population, exciting growth for small business and all that comes with a huge boom in natural resources.

But as we should know from our own history, all booms come at a price. They are paying that price now in North Dakota.

According to Think Progress, state officials recently found piles of garbage bags of radioactive material dumped in abandoned buildings.

The refusal of the oil industry to responsibly deal with its radioactive waste is so out of control that garbage dump operators are routinely screening waste for radioactive waste.

Again, according to Think Progress, the oil industry generates as much as 27 tons of radioactive material DAILY. Of course, North Dakota has no way to process these radioactive wages and the closest places are many miles away in Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Montana.

Of course, to dump in those places means transporting radioactive materials across hundreds of miles. That, of course, creates a whole new set of problems.

So every boom comes with a cost. There is no free or easy or simple way to generate enough energy today without turning in a major way to renewables.

We cannot get away from the need to invest in renewables and conservation. There is no fossil fuel magic bullet. We either take care of the earth and the quality of our lives or we squander the earth and the quality of our lives.

This is yet another decision that cannot be left to the whims of the market or unfettered capitalism or greed beyond greed.

Photo: Workers cleanup after a pipeline was found to have spilled 20,600 barrels of oil onto a wheat field, Sept. 29, near Tioga, North Dakota. Tom Stromme/AP


Stewart Acuff
Stewart Acuff

Stewart Acuff is Organizing Director of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees 1199 in Philadelphia.