Lisa DeVille lives in the heart of the Bakken oil formation.
DeVille is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Nation and lives in Mandaree, N.D., on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Living in the Bakken, she and her family see natural gas flares almost daily.
"We witness it, we live with oil and gas," DeVille said. "The night sky is lit up like day. You can feel the earth rumble under you when those flares happen, you can hear it and smell it."
The air quality is poor in this area because the flares put off toxic chemicals, DeVille said. The oil and gas industries have other adverse effects on the land and health of the people living there.
According to an Earthworks study done in the Mandaree, N.D. area, "visible and concerning" emissions were found at sites near Williston and the Fort Berthold Reservation.
"If they don't get it under control, it's going to be worse than what it is today," she said. "Things need to happen now."
North Dakota is producing oil and natural gas at all-time high levels.
The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) released a report in November showing September's production of oil was nearly 41 million barrels. In September of last year, North Dakota produced more than 33 million barrels of oil.
North Dakota produced more than 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in September.
With all of the economic benefits oil and gas production bring to North Dakota, there is also a downside to this level of production.
Last year, there were 392 million barrels of oil produced in North Dakota. Approximately 168.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted from consuming that much oil, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency.
That is equivalent to carbon dioxide emissions from 36,105,912 cars.
North Dakota ranks second in the country, behind Texas, in crude oil reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). North Dakota has been the second-largest oil-producing state since 2012.
North Dakota has also become one of the biggest carbon dioxide emitters in the country. The region produces 10 billion to 15 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.
A study released by the EPA in 2016 showed agriculture emits 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and greenhouse gas emissions from industry, such as burning fossil fuels for energy, contributes 22 percent.
Oil and gas impact
The fourth annual climate assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program reported climate change could put infrastructure, such as pipelines and highways, at risk, as well as the energy it carries.
"Railroads and pipelines are vulnerable to damage or disruption from increasing heavy precipitation events and associated flooding and erosion," the report said.
As a result, the cost of producing oil would likely increase. The cost increases could reduce production or drive up costs for consumers of the energy products.
"The process of extracting oil requires a tremendous amount of water, if you can imagine, as the climate impacts worsen and you see areas with prolonged drought, you can see how that could intensify demand for water and drive up the price," said Jeff Deyette, the director of state policy and analysis for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Dexter Perkins, a geology professor at UND and Grand Forks resident, said there is no doubt North Dakota is a big contributor to climate change.
"Climate change is the single biggest issue facing us today, and the source of it is burning fossil fuels. We have a fossil fuels industry in North Dakota, so of course we're contributing," Perkins said.
Kristen Hamman, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said that many do not think the oil industry has contributed to environmental changes.
"The climate is always changing, it's been changing for millions of years," Hamman said. "To assign responsibility to our industry in the state of North Dakota is a big stretch."
'Everyone is benefitting'
Do benefits from producing oil and gas outweigh negative impacts on the environment? Many say they do.
To North Dakotans, the energy boom meant jobs and revenue pumping throughout the state. Today, with production at an all-time high, oil still represents that.
Oil production in the Bakken employs 72,000 people across the state, said Rob Lindberg, director of Bakken Backers, a nonprofit organization supporting the oil industry.
While there is less activity than at the height of the boom earlier this decade, the industry is still a $30 billion "behemoth," he said. There are jobs created by oil production and construction. Oil production also creates jobs such as teachers or nurses in nearby towns, Lindberg said.
"I graduated from high school in Jamestown in 2003," Lindberg said. "There wasn't a lot going on in the state then."
Since then, North Dakota jumped from 39th in the nation for personal income to somewhere between first and fourth. "That's attributable to the one major change in the state, which is oil and gas," he said.
Also in that time, oil production went from employing 5,000 people to employing about 55,000.
The east side of the state also felt these positive impacts on the economy. The Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce said 67 percent of its members reported higher sales because of the oil boom and 22 percent reported they added staff because of the activity in the Bakken.
In Grand Forks area, 110 businesses were doing $300 million in business per year in the Bakken area.
Brent Bogar with Jadestone Consulting researched how the oil industry supports the entire state.
Since the start of the boom, the state has collected about $18 billion in oil and gas tax, Bogar said. This includes money going into North Dakota's Legacy Fund, a rainy day fund that gets revenues from oil and gas. Since the Legacy Fund's creation in 2011, it has had more than $4 billion total deposits.
In Grand Forks, $50 million of oil tax revenue will go toward building a new water treatment plant. UND's new medical school building was also paid for by oil tax revenue.
"Everyone is benefitting to some degree," Bogar said.
Deyette said the current mindset of the oil and gas industry is to take advantage of the abundance of resources available.
"There are good actors and bad actors in the energy industry," he said.
One example, he said, is Xcel Energy in Minnesota, which has a long-term plan for curbing its emissions.
"There are other people who are frankly standing in the way of action," Deyette said.
Deyette also said the oil industry has the capacity to contribute to the solution to climate change by investing in research or technological advancements that could reduce emissions, such as gas capture technology. Deyette cited Xcel Energy as an example of a company doing this. Hamman said that Oasis Petroleum, which just built a new gas plant in Watford City, N.D., has invested a lot of resources into the kind of infrastructure needed for gas capture.
In November, the North Dakota Industrial Commission voted to give the oil and gas industry more flexibility when it comes to meeting gas capture goals. The commission also added a goal of incentivizing investment infrastructure.
"These things take time," Hamman said. "The industry just needs time to build infrastructure to capture the gas."
Hamman added that state has met all Clean Air Act requirements as well as all other regulatory requirements.
"It's not that the energy industry is evil," Perkins said. "American people demand and want fossil fuels."
And, Perkins said, it doesn't seem like Americans will stop burning coal, oil and gas any time soon. "We use three times as much energy as the country of China, and they have a much larger population," Perkins said.
Many in the oil industry are not from the western part of the state, or even North Dakota, DeVille said. They don't care about the land the same way those at Fort Berthold do.
"I have no intentions of leaving, my intentions are to continue my advocacy and make sure my future generations are protected," DeVille said.