Stockgrowers Thank Governor for Proposing Much-needed Help
Recently South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem announced her 2021 Budget plans. The South Dakota Stockgrowers are very pleased this proposal includes much-needed help to address the situation in Harding County regarding the abandoned Spyglass natural gas wells. In her proposal, the Governor included $727,700 for the well plugging and clean-up effort. While this dollar amount falls $160,000 short of the estimated clean-up total, it appears those additional funds will be sought through legislation per the Governor’s Office.
Forty natural gas wells have been left abandoned located on public and private lands within Harding County in the northwest corner of the state. Many of these wells are on Ray and Linda Gilbert’s ranch. “We are excited this issue is getting some traction,” said Linda. “For over a decade now these wells have been abandoned with little oversight except for an annual review by the DENR. We are very concerned if they don’t get cleaned up soon, there could be real environmental consequences,” she added.
In early November the Joint Committee on Appropriations was able to tour the site thanks in part to Senator Ryan Maher of District 28. On this tour the legislators were able to see firsthand how landowners are being affected and the potential for leaks. “Every time it rains you can see the ground bubbling by some of these wells,” commented landowner Ray Gilbert. District 1 Director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers, Billy Clanton, was along for that tour as well. “The company just came in here and ripped out whatever was valuable from their buildings and left a junkyard after they went bankrupt. Who knows what is leaking at this point,” he said.
The South Dakota Stockgrowers have supported numerous bills over the years to address this situation. “We are happy Governor Noem wants to fix this,” said Executive Director, James Halverson. “We are confident the legislature will also step up during the 2020 session and do what is right. No one wants to see abandoned wells on their property with the potential to wreak serious environmental harm, and these folks in Harding County don’t either. It’s not their fault the company went bankrupt and there wasn’t enough bond money collected in advance to prevent this situation. Hopefully work can begin soon to remedy the situation.”
–South Dakota Stockgrowers Association
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News