JASON BOHRER: Welcome to N.D., the state that ‘has it all’
BISMARCK — When Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy visits North Dakota today to meet with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., she will get a close-up look at why North Dakotans are happy and flourishing.
In fact, a recent Gallup survey took note of our state’s energy boom, quality of life and good-paying jobs and placed North Dakota at the top of its annual survey of states in its well-being index, leapfrogging Hawaii.
The survey examined individual life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and access to basic necessities.
It may come as a surprise to outsiders, but Gallup discovered what many here in North Dakota have known for several years: North Dakota has it all. And when it comes to work environment and job opportunities — two factors crucial to life satisfaction — it doesn’t take long to figure out where the jobs and benefits our state receives are coming from. Just look below the ground.
Our state’s access to abundant energy supplies, including lignite coal, natural gas and oil as well as renewables, has allowed not only our region to prosper but also our nation as a whole. There’s even an ongoing discussion back in Washington about exporting our nation’s energy — an idea that would have been laughed at a decade ago.
Our state’s economy has benefitted significantly from our energy resources. At the end of last year, North Dakota’s unemployment rate was just 2.6 percent. To put this statistic in context, the unemployment rate in South Dakota, our closest neighbor, was a full point above ours, at 3.7 percent. A simple Google search brings up countless opportunities for those eager to find good-paying work in the Peace Garden State.
North Dakota’s air quality consistently has been ranked high because of the emissions controls already in place. The 2013 State of the Air Report issued by the American Lung Association gave an “A” grade to eight North Dakota counties for lack of smog. The North Dakota capital of Bismarck was ranked one of the top 25 cities for lack of particulate matter.
Even Administrator McCarthy’s EPA has touted our state as one of only seven in the nation to meet all federal ambient air quality standards.
But there’s more.
North Dakota’s energy boom has let our state compete on a national level for new businesses, manufacturing expansions and the highly skilled workers they attract. In large part thanks to our robust energy industry, we are giving our residents the ability chance to earn a good living, reap the benefits of affordable energy and enjoy our state’s abundance of valleys, plateaus and plains to their fullest, knowing our air is healthy and our families are safe.
North Dakota is a testament to the fact that diverse energy interests and people can coexist beautifully.
To Administrator McCarthy, welcome. There’s sure a lot to be happy about here in North Dakota.
Bohrer is president and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council.