Oliver Calls Out Environmental Cost of Crude in ND

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John Oliver noticed something that has been apparent for months on his show Last Week Tonight.

The oil boom has slowed because of low oil prices.

Whether oil prices will rebound remains to be seen, but OIiver says he wants to ask "What the hell just happened?" before taking the state to task.

Last Week Tonight is looking at North Dakota for the same reason many have over the past decade: oil. While he acknowledges all the good things the boom has done for the economy, he also challenges the state over the environmental cost of crude.

"Last year, the New York Times reported that 18.4 million gallons of chemicals had spilled, leaked or misted into the air. That is a quantity of lubricant and toxins seldom found outside of a John Mayer pool party," said Oliver, the show's host.

But the Department of Mineral Resources' Alison Ritter isn't laughing.

"When the fact checker asked me about this, I said, 'I don't see how you're going to make spills funny, because they're not funny to us,'" said Ritter.

Oliver seems to have taken that as a challenge.

"Look, there are times when it's acceptable to destroy farmland, like when you're a child from Krypton looking for a place to crash land or you're a bunch of racist baseball ghosts looking for a place to play," said Oliver.

The state, however, is sticking by its environmental record.

"Spills that get reported in the state, they get cleaned up. We look at how the environment was impacted and how the company responded. Almost all the time the spills are cleaned up within a couple of weeks," said Ritter.

At the end of the bit, Oliver asks North Dakotans to be angry, please. He even bought a billboard in Minot. The Department of Mineral Resources says it'd rather people be informed.

Ritter also says that using their method of settling fines, no company has ever created two spills with the same cause, which is the goal of the fining system.

One of the companies that Oliver highlights, Petro-Hunt, did have two spills which led to complaints, but they were for different reasons, which is why they weren't subject to the repeat offender fine. The company has cleaned both of those spills and the complaints have been settled.