WILLISTON, N.D. – Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm fired back this week to comments made by the chairman of North Dakota’s Republican Party calling for the oil industry to take a “moderated approach” to development.
Hamm, whose company was a pioneer in the use of horizontal drilling that fueled the Bakken oil boom, said he felt compelled to respond to statements made by Robert Harms in news coverage in the aftermath of the explosive train derailment near Casselton.
“It looks to me like he’s saying we shouldn’t overreact to these situations, but that’s exactly what he’s doing,” Hamm said in an interview with Forum News Service this week.
Hamm particularly objected to Harms’ comment in a Reuters story that read, “Even people within the oil and gas industry that I’ve talked to feel that sometimes we’re just going too fast and too hard.”
“We shouldn’t overreact. We’re doing something that’s not only the best thing for North Dakota and for that area up there, but also for our entire nation,” Hamm said. “The world has been changed by the fact that we can produce energy of this quantity in America today.”
Hamm said the industry has shifted away from the phase of securing leases and moved into a more orderly development mode in North Dakota. Drilling rigs are no longer moving continuously, they’re drilling multiple wells on the same pad, Hamm said.
North Dakota had 193 drilling rigs operating on Wednesday, slightly higher than the number of rigs operating in the state in late 2013, but down from the all-time high of 218 rigs that were drilling in North Dakota in May 2012.
“The industry has slowed down. That’s been felt up there,” Hamm said. “I don’t know how much of a slowdown we should do.”
Harms, a lobbyist and consultant in Bismarck who is a native of northwestern North Dakota and has worked in the oil industry, declined to elaborate on his comments when contacted Wednesday, saying it’s unfair for him to speak to an important issue in the state without discussing it internally with other members of the party.
In a guest post to SayAnything Blog, Harms wrote: “The event in Casselton should give us pause to have thoughtful discussions,” about improving safety practices. He added, “no one wants to shut down the industry that has done so much for North Dakota and the country.”
The Dakota Resource Council issued a statement this week calling on Gov. Jack Dalrymple to slow the pace of oil drilling until the safety of transporting oil is improved.
Slowing oil development also was expressed Tuesday in Mountrail County in a different context when commissioners questioned a Department of Mineral Resources’ oversight that led to a waste pit being located too close to a city’s water well.
“Are we at the point where those mistakes are being made because we can’t handle it?” Mountrail County Commissioner Greg Boschee asked. “Do we need more people or do we need to slow it down?”
Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms responded that his department will need more staff to keep up with the decisions that need to be made in the field. He noted that the pace of drilling is about 15 percent slower than 2012 as the industry transitions into the development phase.