Corey Mock

Month: October 2015

Tyler Axness: To improve life in N.D., elect more Democrats

Grand Forks Herald

FARGO—A lot of people have watched John Oliver’s segment on North Dakota and our elected leader’s lack of reasonable oversight regarding oil development. The show criticized our leaders’ inadequate response and lax attitude towards changing realities.

Oliver urged North Dakotans to “be angry (please)” at state government’s failure to properly address worker safety, environmental protection and unethical behavior.

Undoubtedly, there are North Dakotans who are angry about these issues. And that’s their right. But better than being angry, North Dakotans should be active in holding their elected leaders accountable.

Take, for example, the 2015 legislative session. The makeup of that Legislature was 15 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Senate and 23 Democrats and 71 Republicans in the House—2-to-1 Republican majorities. Solutions to some of the points Oliver made in his segment were offered by North Dakota Democrats:

▇ Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, offered HCR 3060 to ask the voters of this state to vote on and create an Ethics Commission. That failed in the House, 25-68.

▇ Rep. Ben Hanson, D-West Fargo, sponsored HB 1253 to make it illegal for elected officials to use campaign donations for personal use. That failed in the House, 26-65.

▇ Sens. Mac Schneider and Connie Triplett, both Democrats of Grand Forks, introduced SB 2366 to separate the roles of promoter and regulator of the oil industry in the Department of Mineral Resources. That failed in the Senate, 15-32.

▇ I introduced SB 2342 that would make the elected officials of the Industrial Commission—the governor, agriculture commissioner and attorney general—publicly vote on fine reductions rather than avoiding responsibility and hiding behind an underling. That failed in the Senate, 17-30.

All of these sensible solutions were defeated almost entirely on party lines by the Republican supermajority.

Voters now are rightly questioning why these bills were defeated. What are elected officials hiding? Why are they scared of transparency? Were they putting politics over common sense simply because these bills were introduced by Democrats?

Regardless, North Dakotans deserve better than what they’ve received from Bismarck.

If Herald readers are going to “be angry (please)” as Oliver suggests, I urge them to direct that anger at those who refused to pass common-sense solutions. But anger alone won’t address our state’s challenges in a way that lives up to North Dakota’s opportunities. Instead, we should take that anger and be active (please). Vote them out next November

Axness, a Democrat, represents Fargo in the North Dakota Senate.

John Oliver spills on North Dakota oil industry

Grand Forks Herald

HBO’s John Oliver is no fan of North Dakota nice. In fact, he wants residents to “be angry.”

Have you watched the John Oliver segment on the oil industry in North Dakota?

In a nearly 20-minute monologue on Sunday’s night’s “Last Week Tonight,” Oliver took shots at how the state has handled the oil industry with regards to its toll on the environment and worker safety.
Oliver, who rose to prominence as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show,” blamed the state’s lax regulations on the industry, poking fun at Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s pride in the state’s “level of friendliness” to business, including oil.

He encouraged residents to get mad about what’s going on and even purchased a billboard along a North Dakota highway telling people to “Be Angry.” with another positioned directly after it reading “(Please.).” The billboards were meant to poke fun at “Be Nice” and “Be Polite” billboards seen around the state.

State Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks also was shown in the segment during a portion where Oliver said even the state’s friendly regulations also extend it to campaign finance.

In North Dakota, Oliver said, you don’t have to spend campaign funds on your campaigns. The show then cut to a clip of Mock, speaking on the floor and wearing a bow tie, saying how legislators could put campaign donations in their bank account.

“I know his flannel bow tie is extremely distracting,” Oliver said after the clip. “But what he’s saying is horrifying.”

Mock said he took the joke in jest and was just glad Oliver noticed his style.

“I really have no positive or negative reaction to it,” he said. “I laughed when I saw the piece and joked about it a few times with friends. It’s definitely not the first time, and if it’s the last time I get a comment about the bow tie, I’m going to be greatly disappointed.”

Some, though, were not as amused by Oliver’s remarks.

Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Oil and Gas Division, said she thought the segment had some clever points but was disappointed in some of the show’s criticism.

She said she provided the show with more recent numbers regarding what percent of fines companies have to pay and what they consider different violations.

In the segment, Oliver shows the Oil and Gas Division saying no company has had the same regulatory violations within a year. Oliver then mentions how Petro-Hunt has had two complaints for oil spills, which he said should be the same violation.

Ritter, however, said the circumstances surrounding the spills were different. One, she said, was a blowout, while the other involved valves inadvertently being left open and improper diking on the site. Ritter also took issue with the segment not mentioned that all of the oil spills were cleaned up.

“I think you have to take everything with a grain of salt, obviously,” Ritter said. “Pieces like this are meant for entertainment purposes. There is a bit of entertainment value, but if you want to be an informed person, you have to be careful where you get your news from and understand that they may not be telling the entire story.”

Though some of the clips were outdated, Mock said the portrayal of the state in the segment was more accurate than not. He said he hopes a segment such as this one will help launch conversations about some of the challenges, such as workers safety, water access and environmental concerns, that the oil industry brings.

“It is refreshing that people are paying attention to these issues.” Mock said. “Of course, he brings levity, comedy and even a little ridicule at our expense to bring out that point. It was entertaining. It was factually accurate in a lot of areas. It was hard hitting, and I think North Dakota as a state, and we as a people, have some soul searching to do on whether or not any of those issues truly still exist and what are we going to do about them.”

Mock said he joked with friends after the segment aired about his brief appearance, and how he considered sending his bow tie to Oliver.

“He seemed to be so infatuated with the tie,” Mock said. “I thought he might want to wear it on one of his shows.”

To watch the segment, click here.