To the citizens and landowners of Dunn County, don’t be disappointed.
We wanted to write to you and tell you how proud we are of all your hard work and commitment to our county. It’s the best county in North Dakota, and in the past two months, you demonstrated the importance of local control to our county commissioners and other elected officials throughout ND oil country. Through your efforts, and those of your friends and neighbors we were able to demonstrate what’s best about Dunn County and what’s best about North Dakota is not lost. No one knows the land better than a farmer or a rancher. As landowners, we have rights and when we work together our voice matters.
For those of you just hearing about this issue, here’s a little bit of history. In June 2014, as part of the approval of a master zoning plan for Dunn County, your commissioners quietly removed a provision for 60% approval by landowners within a half mile of any proposed special waste landfill. This rule had been part of Dunn County Code going back at least until the mid-1970s. Recently, two separate landfill companies began the permitting process to build two landfills for oil field waste in the county. Do you remember the fuss over the illegally dumped “filter socks” being found throughout the Bakken? These landfills would be the place where radioactive materials and other chemical byproducts of drilling and fracking could now be legally disposed after changes in state law and ND Health Department regulations. And despite what you may have heard, both projects are still pre-approved by the state and as far as we know, moving forward. A group of landowners near the proposed sites, inquired about the 60% rule as it would apply to their situations, and discovered that the rule had been removed. So these landowners talked to their neighbors. They talked to other landowners and concerned citizens. And that large group of citizens decided together to try and get the 60% reinstated as law in Dunn County, because it never should have been removed in the first place.
They brought their case to a Planning and Zoning Committee meeting in early March, and because so many showed up, the meeting had to be delayed and moved down to the County Shop, and people stayed, and stayed late, because they cared. The Planning and Zoning Committee could not say definitively why the 60% had been removed in 2014 as part of their master plan. They recommended reinstatement of the 60% rule to the full County Commission, and we thank them for that support. At the next meeting of the County Commission, where you filled the room to standing room only, your commission tabled the issue, to allow State’s Attorney Merriman and the group to fully research the legalities of a 60% rule. At that time, your commissioners still could not explain to their constituents why the rule had been removed in the first place. It was only after that meeting, after hurried research and testimony from Mr. Merriman, that the commissioners began telling people they voted to remove the 60% rule because it was unconstitutional.
So, our large group of citizens formed a formal committee because we felt forced to hire a lawyer. On Wednesday, April 15th, your Commission voted against local control, despite a room full of citizens in support of the rule and an expert in North Dakota property law telling them explicitly a 60% rule regarding landfills is not unconstitutional under state or federal law. In a 3 to 2 vote (Commissioners Kleeman and Hauck voting in favor and Commissioners Dukart, Scott, and Pelton voting against) your commission ignored the will of the people.
The power of the citizen you have demonstrated in such a short time is phenomenal, and we need you to keep working. Continue to hold your commissioners accountable for the words they say, their actions, and most importantly their votes. Our elected officials – from the State’s Attorney’s office, to the County Commission, to the State Legislature – need to remember they were elected to represent us.
Remember that we are not done, and we need you not to be either. The landfills are still moving forward, and we still have many avenues to pursue to protect Dunn County. Planning and Zoning are meeting on the Houghton landfill on Tuesday, April 21st, 6pm, at Killdeer High School. Keep an ear out for Commission meetings and P&Z meetings in coming months and show up. We promise, to the best of our limited ability and resources, to try and keep you informed.
We will be having a large get-together and informational session on June 2nd at 7pm at the Manning Community Club. Mark your calendars and see you there.
Your Dunn County 60% Committee – Dale Dvorak (Manning), Linda Kittilson (Killdeer), Mark Kovash (Manning), Curt Kralicek (Manning)