Letter to the Editors – December 2003

Title: Letter to the Editors
From: Friends of the NDGS
Publication: The Outcrop, December 2003, p. 12

Editors’ Note: As a follow-up to the lead article in the October Outcrop regarding potential reorganization of the Colorado Geological Survey, only one letter to the editor was received from a group of concerned geoscientists in North Dakota. The text of the letter is reproduced below.


To the Editors of The Outcrop:

During the recent North Dakota Legislative Session, several amendments were added to the North Dakota Geological Survey’s appropriations bill. They would have eliminated several positions from the Survey, including the State Geologist, who would have been replaced by an engineer, the Director of the Oil and Gas Division.

Several legislators and a number of people in industry intervened and the original amendments were replaced by a single amendment calling for a study of how best to merge the Geological Survey with the state’s Oil and Gas Division. The proviso was added that the Survey would become a part of the Oil and Gas Division, under the Oil and Gas Division Director.

The Geological Survey and the Oil and Gas Division are agencies within the North Dakota State Industrial Commission, a triumvirate consisting of the Governor, Attorney General, and Commissioner of Agriculture.

The only merger proposal being considered was drafted by the Director of the Oil and Gas Division. It calls for abolishing current Century Code references to the State Geologist and Geological Survey. A Department of Mineral Resources would be established, which would include two divisions, an Oil and Gas Division and a new Geological Survey. The Director of this Department could appoint a State Geologist, but no qualifications are spelled out; all Century Code references to the qualifications and duties of the State Geologist would be eliminated.

Savings in expenditures (anticipated efficiencies) come mainly from eliminating geologists’ positions. Do the savings justify the loss to the state of all geologic expertise? The Geological Survey generates revenues far in excess of its operating costs.

Prior to 1981, the Geological Survey performed all regulatory functions now handled by the Oil and Gas Division. The Survey was split into two agencies at that time because of a perceived conflict of interest between the Survey’s regulatory duties and its geologic studies. Merging the two agencies now seems illogical, as it defeats the purpose for which the Oil and Gas Division was formed.

Since it was formed in 1895, the Geological Survey has benefited citizens, exploration companies, and others with its knowledge of North Dakota geology. Most Williston Basin geologists have extensive libraries of Survey publications and articles on the geology of the Basin. Geologists new to the Basin wouldn’t know where to start exploring for oil without these publications and the general knowledge of the Geological Survey.

Written testimony, for or against the plan, can be submitted prior to December 24, 2003. Send letters to the Director of the Oil and Gas Division, 600 East Boulevard Avenue, Bismarck, ND 58505-0840 with copies to the members of the Industrial Commission and to the Stale Geologist:

The Honorable John Hoeven
Governor’s Office
600 East Boulevard, 1st Floor
Bismarck, ND 58505-0001

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem
Office of the Attorney General
600 East Boulevard, 1st Floor
Bismarck, ND 58505-0040

Commissioner Roger Johnson
Department of Agriculture
600 East Boulevard, 6th Floor
Bismarck, ND 58505-0020

John Bluemle, State Geologist
North Dakota Geological Survey
600 East Boulevard
Bismarck, ND 58505-0840


Friends of the NDGS