Vicky Steiner, Executive Director of The North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties

With the unprecedented growth in western North Dakota, entities like The ND Assoc. of Oil & Gas Producing Counties brings a sense of ‘balance’ between agriculture and oil production to the core population. They also are involved in truck permitting, infrastructure and more. The executive director, Vicky Steiner tells us about these items and more on today’s Hegg Bakken Report.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Today on the program we introduce you to a young lady from Western North Dakota who is the executive director of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas producing counties, Vicky Steiner. Thanks for joining us on the show today.

Vicky Steiner: It’s my pleasure glad to be here.

The Hegg Bakken Report: You are a native of Western North Dakota?

Vicky Steiner: I am, I graduated from High School from Bismarck but I have lived in Dakota in over 30 years so I was here for the oil boom of the 80’s and married and my husband have had four children here in Dickinson and I have enjoyed living in Dickinson ever since.

The Hegg Bakken Report: And all the changes that you have seen, first of all we saw a very soft version of what we are seeing in 2014 back in late 70’s and 80’s but nobody for the life of them can imagine can imagine what has transpired here in Western North Dakota, it’s been truly amazing.

Vicky Steiner: It has been amazing because I think they tell you it’s coming but until you see all those industrial trucks on the road and you see all the construction workers coming from all of the states to build homes for all these new population it’s still starts to sink in because we went through the 80’s boom which was so, the boom in [Inaudible 00:01:17] was so short lived and the first year that things really started to pick up I know a lot of people were asking is this really happening, is this really going to hold and the companies were telling us yes, we have a 30 year plan, we plan to drill X amount of rigs for the next 30 years and that’s the way it looks its playing out. I mean it looks good for the economy of Western North Dakota and for the state.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Yes, and I recall back in the mid 80’s I think there was a sign outside of Willis in North Dakota that read ‘Last one out to turn the lights’ and you know, what we are at today is, you are right its truly amazing. First of all Vicky how have you been associated with the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas producing counties?

Vicky Steiner: Well I started my carrier in KDIX actually as a radio and TV news director and I ended up working for the association beginning of 1986. So, I worked for them for quite a while we have been through some, you know the criteria I would say during the state and we used to work on energy impact funding to ensure that if there were some short falls especially in Williston and Dickinson where they have specialists assessments that those communities were taken care of and then also as we moved forward that they were the proper tax and centres in place to make sure that we could still sustain that industry out west.

So some of those look, you know you know forget about that but horizontal drilling had a tax incentive when they route back in the late 80’s when they were really trying to get it moving forward and it was a new technology at that time. So, the industry is amazing, when they find a way to do something they really make it happen and in this time we are very fortunate that we have the right ideology in place obviously and they are able to capture new wealth that is shared nationwide really.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Give us a quick snap shot of what the mission statement if you will is, of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas producing counties and what you stand for and what are the things, what do you do?

Vicky Steiner: Well one of the things we do is we really look at the quality of life for Western North Dakotans and the mission statement its about unity and making sure that we have credible information so that the right decisions are made as they affect the lives of people in Western North Dakota. So, we worked with state stakeholders, w worked with the legislature, we also work with local officials we have a lot of committees who are always working. If there was a chance for federal grant $1.5million federal grant came in we are a partner with that bringing that still to several Dollars and to do some planning. We have had over 20 something community meetings and we have got infrastructure plans that have been done. The oil and gas counties executive committee is very support of wherever they can lend a hand to see that these communities get the support they need for the, you know really dramatic changes that have taken place.

The Hegg Bakken Report: You bring balance to the citizens of Western North Dakota, the erg and the oil industry you are kind of a liaison to bring some balance in some of those entities if you will.

Vicky Steiner: Right and also to bring some credible information. One of the things we have a uniform county truck permit program that started during the oil boom of the 80’s and it was really an information piece for the counties so that the oil trucks want to run 24/7 is you know, and the court houses would close on Saturday and Sunday so the association took on a uniform county truck permit system so that the county commissioners would know which roads the oil sealed companies hands wanted to run on and yet they could still move on Saturday and Sunday and so that program had its feeds begin in the 80’s and we have continued to this day.

Well today because of the volume of truck traffic it generates a good share of money for the association and we turn around and use that money to buy studies. Studies on EMS studies on infrastructures on studies on school population to hire researchers to tell us in five years, 10 years what do you see happening and how can we get ahead of the curve so to speak. So, that uniform county truck permit program which is paid and completely by the oil industry on moving their trucks around on county roads the money that the association would receive the executive committee turns around and finds ways to reinvest it. If you will gathering data, and once you have that data we spent $135,000 with NDSU on county roads in the shape of Western county roads. That kind of data then brings the legislature up to speed on how rapid the deterioration was on some of the county roads.

You have vehicles 105,500 Pounds driving everyday no matter the rains or not on some of these county roads and so that wasn’t just the usual farm harvest truck that runs once in the spring and bring the seed out and then in the fall they make a few passes when they are collecting their grains. These roads became whole roads for a very rapidly growing industrial group of companies and so we had to change the way we look at county roads, some of them have to paid some of them cant remain hunting trails, some of them have to be ready to run 24/7. So, part of that information that we have bought has really brought the legislature and the governor’s office to a place where they can understand, wow, look at the deterioration look at the replacement cost and look at how much this is going to cost the tax payers perhaps of that county.

Let’s see if we can take some of the oil tax revenue that’s come in and do a share so that the state can share in part of that. As you know like the legacy funds is taking money right off the top of both the oil taxes and its taking money right off the top and so as that money goes into that pool its saved, it saved for future generation and w cant as legislators you can’t cant into 2017 but you still are going to need to reinvest oil Dollars that come into the state general fund that come into the strategic investment fund. We still are going to need to turn around and send some of that back for bypasses which they have done and I thank them very much for that.

We have got bypasses going in all the Northern port of cities that need a bypass right now. So, they are reinvesting that money but it actually takes some time to gather the data, to prove your case to really get an understanding so that you can get support and the legislature obviously only meet every two years. So you have got to really have good solid information going into the session so that you can show them what is actually happening, not all of them were able to get out here and live at the way you do and I do, we see it and then from my own self it gets frustrating too because I know it, I breath it, I see it and then you have to go in and really explain to people who don’t come out here very often.

The Hegg Bakken Report: That’s a lot of information Vicky, amazing, just to clarify now, we can go to your homepage at ndenergy.org and scroll down to the county permit programs and truck drivers and oil companies whoever needs over way permit they can start the process there, can they complete it as well?

Vicky Steiner: Yes, and they are really good about that, we have invested quite a bit of money that we have received from the truck permit system back into the system because we take the feedback from the truck drivers that the companies want to have certain functions on it. So, we have invested quite a bit of money on it, it’s to make things easier for them so that, and also there is also a three day window on the e-permit, we call it electronic permit but Janet Sanford is our truck permit operator and she has the staff that keeps it running 24/7 and they go in and when they put in for their permit then the county road supervisor gets to look at that because sometimes with rain or the spring weather that they have they will re-route those trucks because they want to keep traffic, heavy traffic off the road.

Sometimes when they move those rigs you know, there is so much weight that it leaves trucks and so they will move them to a different road or they will put everybody on a really, really bad road that they know eventually they are just going to have to fix. So, it’s just away for the counties to be efficient and so that the trucks are not running everywhere and every road gets so damaged and the cost is so extreme.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Which was a huge issue this past spring?

Vicky Steiner: It’s not, and I know some of your listeners are saying well I have been on some roads and they have been really pretty bad and that’s true. We haven’t been able to, it’s not a perfect system but with this truck permitting at least the county roads supervisors have a chance to re-route if they can. Sometimes it’s not possible.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Yeah, understood. Our guest today is Vicky Steiner the executive director of the North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas producing counties and this past October you had your annual meeting in Dickinson, it was kind of a who is who of attendees there and presenters Lyn Helms was there via video also senator majority leader Rich Waldner and Dennis Johnson. I believe you had some good folks from Huadin Petroleum, Marathon, MBI Energy. There was a lot of information shared those few days in Dickinson, was there not?

Vicky Steiner: Yes, they talked about their plans and how positive it is for Western North Dakota now that they really feel confident in taking this resource at the Bakken, there is some expiration now, I guess testing, I don’t know when but they are testing into the Tyler South of Bail Field or actually it really sells on the edges I heard but anyway we will find out how the Tyler plays out next year, that’s another development beyond the Bakken and the Three Forksso we have really been blessed with geology in North Dakota. The one thing you know, where this vision was planned I know the communities have gotten together and one of the things I think we really need to guard against us that we would lose our culture that we would lose the hunting and fishing.

I think we are really going to need to consider of life as we move forward because you don’t want to end up just having an industrial zone either and so it’s great to have that economic growth and development. I know I have personally benefited, my daughter is a physician assistant and her job is her because of all the people applying for truck driving jobs and so she is the PA who checks them out to make sure that they can drive trucks and that job is only available because of the Buck and Play. They, she and her husband had a boy two years ago our grandson and so we get to see our grandson on a daily basis.

That wouldn’t have happened if she had gotten the job that was also offered to her in Las Vegas. So, you know people will say well, you know what our call, you know there is so much traffic in some of our cities. Yes there is but as soon as the bypasses get built that will peal back and I know people are tired and some of our communities are waiting when are things going to, you know, when does the traffic get out of town and it will come. I mean it will come and things will be better but at the forefront of it the quality of life is really important, not only to my association but I’m sure it is important to all of your listeners as well.

We will keep our eye on that as well, if there are some things that need to be done there. Definitely safety, public safeties and other issues and that’s why we got involved with that vision at West if people are interested in what the communities are working on in Vision West they are volunteer community people or just getting together and trying to wrestle with some of the local issues and there is communities all over Western North Dakota.

If anybody is interested in joining a committee you are certainly welcome. Its Visionwestnd.com there is a lot of webinars on there about oil plays and other parts of the country so there is a lot of information about Pennsylvania and Texas there is also some information about how the taxes are paid and whether or not NORTH Dakota shares what it should be back to the locals and there is a lot of community plans. Some of the communities are concerned about trash and garbage in the ditches and how they can organize to make sure that that gets cleaned and the industry steps forward and actually set up and got an award for that because they set up a clean day and hauled tones and tones of trash which is part of having 35,000 new people show up in your doorstep.

Not all of them have the same culture that we have and there is no place sometimes to put trash and there is no places for them to sleep and so you have a lot of those rapid growth issues. There is five issues that have come out of that vision west planning process that’s housing and housing is both additional housing for oil fields but also crude camp housing, how we handle that and affordable housing for people who are in low income and then we have infrastructure, transportation, emergency services and child care and child care is obviously that’s important if you are going to have secondary workforce working as waitresses or working second jobs in offices where you are going to need child care for those that aren’t in school yet. So, those are the things that have kind of emerged over the last couple of years that we have been working with the vision west planning.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Yeah, and there is a link on your page at ndenergy.org if folks want to check more out and find out more information. Okay great, do you have a meeting this week or is that next week coming up here?

Vicky Steiner: Next on the 14th we have an executive committee meeting and we will be going through, we want to take a look at how the money, there is a new formula in place that is returning more money back to the local share to the county cities and schools and we want to see how that is working out so we were going to take those numbers and take a look at them and see if that’s working out and we also have some other things on our agenda and then we have another meeting in February and that’s more with, we are going to be meeting with some legislature to see what they are thinking and then we have an annual meeting in September, September 18th in Minor, that’s our annual meeting and so we will have that one to kind of go over where the industry is at.

I don’t know if you have heard but Lyn Helms gave a presentation at one of the meetings I was at and he mentioned that 2014 might be, that is the legislative meeting at the state capital and he mentioned to the legislative meeting that 2014 might be a little bit a softer year on the oil price but of course our production has gone up and so our production is still rising but instead of $100 oil it’s going to be less than that. He didn’t give a Dollar number at the legislative hearing I was at but if the four big baking counties you know, McKenzie, Montreal, Don Williams those four counties are going to be able to continue their growing plans even when the oil price is dropping. But because we receive, the state receives their oil tax revenue based on price time’s production when price drops so does the oil tax revenue. So, the state will probably start, it depends on how much production rises versus how much the price falls.

So, we may, all he said is, you may expect a softer price in 2014 and but it looks like the drilling plans will continue although in some of the outline counties where they are not so much in that, switch spot if you will that they may see some drop offs on some drillings on those outline counties that’s what he said. Well I think you know, from an economic stand point I think we can just keep going ahead with our plans because everything that we have got so far with the plans looks like its playing out accurately and I think we are going to ahead and make sure that we just continue with building the bypasses, getting our communities ready to receive the new neighbours who are willing to move here and we are going to switch eventually.

If you look at the population charts that are on our visionwestnd.com website you will see population estimates for all the counties but when Helms helped us with that which we are really grateful for and it will show you where that switches from drilling to production and then it drops slightly and it stabilizes and then it drops again out in the future but it stabilizes. So, there is a long term outlooks for Western North Dakota that is very positive and you see that, you see that with the investments the companies are making and the fact that they are locating their people here and that they are.

I don’t know what the transition plan will be for our crew camps but I think the crew camps have really been a blessing for some of these communities that simply did not have enough water and sewer and this way there can be a transition as that becomes available.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Vicky Steiner please tell me that you will join us again sometime in the very near future, some great information from you and some eye opening things and it’s been truly wonderful hearing all this and we are not done, okay. Let’s get together again sometime real soon.

Vicky Steiner: That sounds great, yeah that sounds great.

The Hegg Bakken Report: Thanks for your time today Vicky and we will be in touch.

Vicky Steiner: Okay, see you, bye, bye.