Home / News / Bakken News / HBO host slams North Dakota oil, urges residents to “Be angry (Please)” – VIDEO
Image courtesy of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

HBO host slams North Dakota oil, urges residents to “Be angry (Please)” – VIDEO

North Dakota: we’re known for oil and gas, that one movie called ‘Fargo,’ the NDSU Bison football team, and of course, being nice (sometimes to a fault).

North Dakota’s recent history, the Bakken, and the apparent lack of state oil and gas regulations were the topics of the most recent episode of the HBO series ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.’ The late-night series, hosted by former ‘Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ writer and correspondent, reviews the events of the past seven days, covering topics such as politics and current events wrapped neatly in satirical wit.

North Dakota, which Oliver also refers to as “South DaCanada,” has become quite used to being ignored, and this lack of attention is often a source of pride. Even the visitor centers have embraced the unpopularity, offering ‘Best for last’ tee-shirts. While the oil boom has resulted in ongoing national media coverage, ‘Last Week Tonight’ is using the pause offered by low oil prices to look at “What the hell happened” in North Dakota.

Oliver hits on points such as the environmental impact the oil boom has had on the state, worker safety, penalties for oil and gas producers, the lack of a state ethics commission, campaign finances and our ‘Be Polite’ billboards. All of this, however, is in spite of job creation, wealth, ABC’s ‘Blood and Oil’ drama and the resulting reduction of net oil and gas imports nationwide.

Citing a report by the New York Times, Oliver states that since the beginning of the boom, over 18 million gallons of oil have been released into the environment. He also illustrates how North Dakota approaches penalizing the companies responsible. Regarding companies paying fines resulting from, for example an oil spill, Oliver said, “Oil companies in North Dakota pay for their mistakes the same way that 4-year-olds pay for their toys: very rarely, and when they do, it’s mostly just a symbolic gesture.”

Repeat violations are rare though, according to Lynn Helms, director the state’s oil and gas regulatory body. But as Oliver points out, there is uncertainty regarding what makes a repeat violation. Despite what look like loopholes in the system, the fact remains that North Dakota is business friendly, as described by the “highly charismatic” Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

He also hits on the topic of oil field worker safety, referring to a report by Reveal earlier this year that stated there is a work related death once every six weeks in North Dakota. There are few incentives for safety, Oliver says, pointing to the eight Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance officers there are tasked with inspecting worksites in both North and South Dakota.

State Rep. Corey Mock (D-Grand Forks) was shown in the part of the episode where Oliver talks about the state’s business friendly nature and how lawmakers aren’t required to spend campaign funds entirely on the race. He told the Forum News Service that for the most part, the state was portrayed accurately.

He said, “It is refreshing that people are paying attention to these issues. Of course, he brings levity, comedy and even a little ridicule at our expense to bring out that point … It was hard hitting, and I think North Dakota as a state, and we as a people, have some soul searching to do on whether or not any of those issues truly still exist and what are we going to do about them.”

In a call to action, Oliver suggests that rather than being polite and nice, like the billboards so graciously suggest, we should get angry about what is happening to our state. The show even purchased billboard space in Minot, which reads, “Be Angry. (Please.)” This message, though, was quickly met with opposition from Fargo-based Sky Digital Advertising which retorted with 10 billboards featuring a sullen looking John Oliver with the message, “Hey John Oliver, don’t be angry. Be ‘North Dakota’ nice. (It really works.)”

Concluding the episode, Oliver says, “North Dakota, please listen, I get it, you’re friendly and that’s fantastic … but this has gone too far. Oil companies need to be held accountable when bad things happen.”


  1. Who cares what this COMMUNIST BUTT PLUG SAYS!!!?

    • I’ve been using that line as of lately. Bernie sanders is nothing but a communist butt plug. When bernie sanders speaks, he a vibrating communist butt plug! I’m stealing your line 😉

  2. That’s what we need. Did he forget we won a war to end the tyranny of England.

  3. —more ranting from the land of make believe– is it illusion or is it delusion ?

  4. The boom in North Dakota brought great prosperity to the Nodaks, and those of us who traveled to work there. This clowns remarks don’t surprise me, communists butt plugs don’t believe in actually earning an honest living. They’d rather think a big corporation they’ve never worked for owes them something

  5. I don’t agree with much that he said, except he’s spot on with the point that safety is only a joke in the Bakken. OSHA has no real enforcement or presence. Safety classes are only taken for company insurance and then it’s all out the door when class is over. The one and only safety aspect enforcement I ever saw was for PPE. Live and die by the Bakken motto: “We don’t make sense. We make dollars.”

    • Disagree…I hauled sand for Fac’s as well as worked on Hydo- vac for 2 years. Total of 4 years working in the Bakken. Every site I worked on safety was enforced. I did not find ” safety ” a joke as you have said.

    • Lucky you. That’s rare. The numbers of deaths and injuries don’t lie and match my personal experiences for poor safety practice in the Bakken. Most companies would rather pay a fine than save a life because safety is not cost effective, and that is a fact that can’t be argued with.

    • Also as someone who hauled sand you were not as exposed to the experience as much those of us that worked fracs from start to finish.

    • Wrong again Jared, majority of accidents and fatalities occur off location from driving …
      You must have worked for small companies … Too bad, they don’t care or will pay to promote safety like the larger companies

    • I kinda agree with you here. I think companies should tighten up regulations.

    • You haven’t worked for Whiting or Oasis then. My rigs and crews are given safety audits every time they pull on location

    • Wrong again Steve. Thanks for trying to be rude and condescending but facts are facts and if you think I’m wrong then you are wrong. Here are a few examples. Not sure why you argue facts.

      “There were 71 fatalities reported to OSHA in the past four years, 34 of which represented oil and gas workers” a quote from one of the articles dated May 2014.

      For just one of the many personal examples I can give here is one. A man in the company I worked for was put out on a site to heat water by himself and was the only person on site. When he got out to check temp on the frac tanks he slipped in between two tanks. The water continued to rise in temp and he was cooked alive. Now this easily could have been avoided had he been working with one other person, but the company didn’t think paying another guy to be there in case of emergency was cost effective. Nothing changed even after a man already died. At a later time I was on a site where the company man noticed we were working alone on a remote pad and said we need to have at least 2 on site for safety. We got the additional man for a few days then this company man was told to mind his own business and we never saw him again.




      You can find tons more articles and I’m done doing the work for you, but I bet you want to remain wrong, uneducated, and ignorant.

    • Funny tou mentioned Oasis and Whiting as I have worked for both. The majority of our work was for Oasis. I even have received Oasis “Atta boy” stickers for safety inspections which were just a guy walking by and saying hello and making sure we had PPE on. FR clothes, steel toe boots, ANSI safety glasses, check. That’s it.

      Here’s another one that happened on an Oasis pad. They put us in a corner of the site to heat a Posiedon and were backing Chem trucks by us within only a few feet of the burn box. They had a radio go down and parked the Chem truck so close to the burn box a person could not fit between the two. I said you you can’t park that here because that is fire and you have haz mat in that truck. They said they were getting a new radio and would move it. I kid you not, 20 minutes later they finally moved the truck. Not even close to safety practices.

  6. Been on plenty of Oasis pads. Worst chemical spills I’ve ever seen a frac crew do. FTS skeleton crews. They mess stuff up haha. Y’all have no idea!

  7. Right on, John Oliver! I lived there all my life and moved because of these shenanigans going on. Shame an the politicians!!!!!!

  8. Love it when a nincompoop like Oliver shows his ignorance in the media.

  9. Anyone who talks down about the USA, should go to jail. This guy is Gunna get him self killed.

  10. Since he is all about assuming let’s run with it. I bet this dude has never done even one day of hard work in his life. Must be nice to get paid to run your mouth and offer opinions. The rest of us have to work for a living.

  11. Would anyone live in ND before oil, hell no! it sucked then and it sucks even worse after oil.

  12. darn this guy and all his out of context information

  13. Well I live and work in Maryland and we have all those politically correct Government bureaus and regulatory bodies in spades. The one thing we don’t have is a growing business community or workforce. Because these communist nuts think regulation is a game to destroy the private sector and finalize the Government’s complete control of your lives. Keep going North Dakota. This oil and gas boom is only taking a breather and when things turn up again you can be pretty sure that will never be mentioned on any left wing talk show.

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