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Mike Kopp / Shale Plays Media

Oil, Obama, abortion, ag make news in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. — Energy development, cold weather and the abortion debate dominated much of the news in North Dakota in 2014, but the state also saw some unusual stories.


State oil production in hit new milestones in 2014, reaching an average of 1 million barrels daily and topping a total of 1 billion barrels in the Bakken shale formation since 2000. Thanks to oil and gas, Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s proposed budget for the next two years is whopping $15.7 billion, with an expected $3.5 billion surplus at the end of the cycle. But the boom also brought problems and challenges, including increased crime and traffic, a shortage of housing, and oil and saltwater spills, including a massive saltwater spill on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. That same month, state regulators endorsed a policy setting goals to reduce the wasteful flaring of natural gas. In December, regulators set new rules requiring oil companies sending crude by rail to reduce the oil’s volatility before it’s loaded onto trains. The year will end with worries about a sharp drop in oil prices.


President Barack Obama traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in June to get a firsthand look at the living conditions of impoverished residents there.


A polar vortex sent temperatures plunging well below zero in January. It contributed to a shortage of propane, leading to a crisis on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, where one woman, Debbie Dogskin, died of hypothermia in an unheated mobile home.


Craig Cobb, a white supremacist who unsuccessfully tried to take over the small town of Leith and turn it into an Aryan enclave, was sentenced in April to four years of probation for terrorizing residents. After his plans to move to his native state of Missouri fizzled, he bought a house in Minot.


Seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit against North Dakota in June, making it the last state with a legal challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage.


Farmers produced a record soybean crop, but the durum crop disappointed. A deadly virus that has killed millions of pigs nationwide was confirmed in a swine herd in eastern North Dakota in February, prompting the state to impose hog movement restrictions. The nonprofit Farm Rescue organization marked a milestone, helping its 300th farm family in the Northern Plains. And grain elevators in the fall struggled to get the train cars they needed to move harvested crops to market, due to delays caused by increased shipments of oil and other products.


Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer earned a return trip to the U.S. House, and Republicans cruised to victory in November for every statewide race. North Dakotans voted down a measure to abolish the part-time, eight-member state Board of Higher Education in favor of a full-time, three-member commission appointed by the governor. Voters also rejected a measure to amend the state constitution and define the “inalienable right to life” to be at “any stage of development.”


Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, who led the city’s fight against several floods and was re-elected in June, died in December at age 73, several months after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.


A Kenmare woman was charged in the January death of her 13-year-old son, who authorities say weighed 21 pounds. The state medical examiner concluded the boy died of chronic starvation due to untreated juvenile appetite disorder. Jessica Jensen has pleaded not guilty. Results of a mental health evaluation are pending, and her trial has not been scheduled.


Trinity High School in Dickinson closed in March after it was damaged by fire. Thomas Sander, principal at the time, was accused of starting the blaze, but a judge in July approved a prosecutor’s request to dismiss charges of arson and endangering by fire. The request came after the judge ruled that Sander was not read his rights before part of a police interrogation and that some of his statements were coerced. Classes resumed in August after an estimated $20 million of cleanup and repairs.


North Dakota in November marked its 125th anniversary of statehood.


This article was written by Blake Nicholson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.