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Ravnsborg Delays Board Decision on Capping Natural Gas Wells

During last year’s election, I heard from various sources that lawyer Jason Ravnsborg occasionally got in trouble with judges because he was late in filing important documents for his clients.

It looks like Attorney General Ravnsborg’s procrastination is now affecting state government. According to Bob Mercer, the Board of Minerals and Environment had to postpone a decision on capping 40 natural gas wells in northwestern South Dakota because Ravnsborg hasn’t gotten back to them yet with a legal opinion on what money the state can use for that purpose:

The South Dakota Office of Attorney General is still researching whether a $130,000 bond forfeited on a separate and unfinished oil well can be spent for plugging some of the wells.

That’s according to Steve Blair, a lawyer for the office.

During a teleconference Wednesday, Blair told state Board of Minerals and Environment members that state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg hasn’t reached a conclusion.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is waiting for direction from the board, whose members are waiting on Ravnsborg, about how to proceed on the 40 wells.

…Another lawyer on the attorney general’s staff, Rich Williams, told the board at the March 21 hearing that it was okay to use the Quartz company’s bond for plugging some of the Spyglass wells.

The board’s chairman, Rex Hagg, a Rapid City lawyer and a former state legislator, asked Williams to get a legal opinion on that point. The board then delayed a decision about how the department should proceed.

Williams was traveling out of state Thursday, according to Blair.

…The board scheduled the meeting Thursday for a decision but delayed to May 15. “We’re still kind of waiting,” Hagg, the chairman, said [Bob Mercer, “South Dakota AG Hasn’t Decided Whether State Can Use Funds to Plug Spyglass Wells,” KELO-TV, 2019.04.18].

Taking care of business: Jason Ravnsborg at GOP fundraising dinner, Yankton, SD, 2019.04.06; tweeted by Ravnsborg 2019.04.08.
Taking care of business: Jason Ravnsborg at GOP fundraising dinner, Yankton, SD, 2019.04.06; tweeted by Ravnsborg 2019.04.08.

A whole month has passed, and Attorney General Ravnsborg hasn’t been able to find the answer to this simple fiscal question? What’s keeping him? He’s had time to shoot nine YouTube videos, attend DARE graduation in Faulkton, argue with Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo about whether CBD oil is illegal in South Dakota, and go pander to his base at Lincoln Day dinners in Yankton, Tripp County, and Meade County, and attend big campaign donor Frank Farrar’s birthday party in Britton.

Jason Ravnsborg appears to have plenty of time for publicity and politics, but not enough to do his job and keep state government running on time. Wow—who could have seen that coming?


  1. Laurisa 2019-04-20 20:43

    As a former paralegal married to an attorney, I can attest to both the fact that attorney procrastination is actually fairly widespread and the fact that the nature of legal work, of all types, lends itself to such procrastination. This is especially true for solo and small firm attorneys, who often cannot afford the needed number of support staff and even a few intense or complex cases can cause a lot of scrambling and late nights to properly meet deadlines.

    However, most attorneys really do try their best to consistently meet deadlines, which are a mainstay of daily life in the legal world, and occasional lapses are usually understood and forgiven, or at least tolerated. It’s the attorneys who either make a habit of it and/or are careless and inconsiderate of deadlines who quickly gain an unfavorable reputation among both judges and other attorneys. And, given that hubby’s been an attorney in this state for over three decades (I’m no longer in the paralegal profession, having recently graduated from seminary and working on the seemingly interminable steps toward ordination), he can say that our doofus of an AG is one of those attorneys. It frosted a lot of attorney’s cookies when Ravnsborg got the GOP nomination, and even more cookies were iced when he won. Lawyers, wherever they are, do a lot of talking privately among themselves about other attorneys (including judges, prosecutors, defenders and state legal officials) and let’s just say that said doofus AG would not be flattered at some of what he’d hear.

    What’s really inexcusable about his procrastination, however, is not just that it will cause a lot of issues statewide, given his position, and that he just doesn’t appear to care. It’s not even that he’s apparently more interested in publicity and photo ops, and the superficial perks of his office, than in the actual and important work of his position. Both if those are inexcusable, of course. But he has NO excuse for such procrastination given that he has a plethora of staff and resources available at any and all times. There is NO reason whatsoever for such damaging procrastination, except for laziness and arrogant flexing of power, and, should it continue, it may very well cause serious consequences at some point.

  2. John 2019-04-21 10:33

    No surprise. Episodes like this (other examples include the state non-“regulation” of the EB5, Mid-Central Ed Coop, and Foster Care debacles: show that this state, many states, is (are) incapable of regulating scandalous behavior.

    Returning to wells. Glance at Wyoming which has tens of, if not hundreds of thousands more than does this state. The numbers of abandoned, orphaned wells under Wyoming jurisdiction number in the tens of thousands; while only a few wells under federal jurisdiction are abandoned without quick corrective action. Imperfect federal regulatory compliance is superior to nearly non-existent state regulator enforcement.

    One should anticipate this state will allow those wells, like the abandoned mines under state jurisdiction, to fester until becoming a public threat or nuisance.

  3. Debbo 2019-04-21 13:19

    This is about natural gas, but not about SD’s incompetent AG or capping wells. It’s about noncarbon energy sources.

    Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has set a goal of 100% carbon free by 2050. Xcel Energy is the state’s biggest energy company, along with several smaller rural co-ops. Today’s Strib business section included an article on this topic, which is usually of significant interest to us DFPers. Here are some takeaways:

    “New battery technologies will likely be needed to meet the massive storage demands of a grid as energy sources shift from coal to resources such as wind turbines and solar panels.”

    “Xcel, Minnesota’s largest utility, is confident that 80% carbon-free energy can be reached by 2030 using existing technology, including nuclear. Ben Fowke, Xcel’s CEO, ‘I am open to anything that works cost-effectively.’ ”

    “benchmark price for battery storage as calculated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance has declined 76% from 2012 — 35% from the beginning of 2018.”

    “‘Long-duration storage needs to be an order of magnitude cheaper than lithium ion,’ said Jesse Jenkins, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment.”

    ” Betting exclusively on wind, solar and battery storage to achieve a 100% carbon-free grid’ would be a big mistake,’ given the economic and technical challenges, concluded a recent study co-authored by Jenkins in the scholarly journal Joule.”

    ” Another big hurdle for carbon-free generation is the need for more electricity transmission and distribution capacity.”

    I’ll leave the rest of it to you to read, but I will say, imo the gist of it is that until battery storage and transmission systems are significantly upgraded, carbon free will require wind, solar and any other carbon free technologies coming down the pike, plus nuclear. Two of the new techs are these:

    “One involves storage of the sun’s heat energy. (Solar panels utilize the sun’s light.) Another is the use of excess wind and solar power — a likely occurrence in a totally clean grid — to create hydrogen fuel through a process called electrolysis.”
    (It’s probably paywalled.)

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-04-21 17:12

    Laurisa, it continues to amaze me that, even when they almost universally recognize his unfitness for the job, South Dakota attorneys would let Ravnsborg coast into office. I hope the members of the bar are planning to rally around Mark Vargo for a convention challenge in 2022.

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