The Associated Press

Argus Leader of Sioux Falls.

Sept. 29, 2012

State needs to lead in octane charges

There's something amiss with the way fuel mislabeling is being prosecuted in South Dakota.

To the Beadle County state's attorney's credit, he has charged six service stations in his county with selling mislabeled fuel, the first charges tied to a statewide investigation into lower-quality gasoline being sold under bogus octane stickers. The county's attorney, Michael Moore, filed charges against five Corner Pantry locations in Huron and the 281 Travel Center in Wolsey, which sell gas distributed by M.G. Oil in Rapid City. At issue is that the stations sold 85-octane gasoline under an 87-octane label, without telling consumers it was a lower octane than marked on the pumps.

Harms Oil in Brookings hasn't been charged criminally but has been named in a class-action lawsuit.

Prosecutors in Brookings and elsewhere have not filed criminal charges in the investigation, even though stations in those areas also were found to have sold the lower-octane gas after a state investigation. Attorney General Marty Jackley has said he isn't involved in prosecuting in the case but has had discussions with prosecutors, private lawyers representing fuel marketers and the Department of Public Safety about a possible statewide settlement in the mislabeling cases.

The investigation into mislabeled gasoline began last spring when state inspectors audited 189 stations in the state on a tip that 85-octane gasoline was being sold outside of a traditional market in the Black Hills. They reported finding the mislabeled gas in 14 cities.

We don't know exactly what detailed information was turned over to the county prosecutors and certainly don't expect that they would drop everything to consider charges in this case.

But cases should not be handled differently in different counties. To avoid that, the attorney general could take a broader leadership role in the prosecution. It was a statewide investigation, after all, so why not handle follow-up steps on the same basis?

Given that this investigation involved gas distributed by two of the largest providers in South Dakota, state oversight would seem appropriate.

Rapid City Journal.

Oct. 2, 2012

Apply cell phone ban to all

The South Dakota Legislature has twice defeated a ban on texting while driving, but a legislative committee may give the issue new life.

The Teen Driving Task Force is recommending a law to prohibit young drivers from using cell phones while driving. South Dakota currently is one of 11 states without a law banning texting while driving.

The panel is also recommending:

– That the time required to have an instruction permit to drive accompanied by an adult be extended to one year before teen drivers can get a restricted permit that allows them to drive alone.

– That statewide standards be established for drivers' education course content, testing and certification of instructors.

– That a limit be set on the number of passengers who can ride in a car driven by a teen with a restricted permit.

Statistics show that changes in South Dakota teen driving laws are needed for public safety. According to a 2010 U.S. News & World Report study, South Dakota ranks last in safe teen driving. And the state Department of Health reports that motor vehicle accidents account for 70 percent of deaths among teens and younger children in South Dakota.

It is our hope that the legislative panel's recommendations will lead to changes in the state's driving laws that will make it safer for teen drivers.

We note that using a cell phone while driving is inherently dangerous, and not more dangerous for teen drivers. While we are encouraged that the legislative panel is recommending a ban on using a cell phone while driving for young drivers, the ban should be extended to drivers of any age.

The recommendation is a good place to begin, but a ban on texting while driving should apply to everyone who uses South Dakota's roads and highways.

Watertown Public Opinion

 Sept. 27, 2012

A boom now but later.

It looks like South Dakota won't become a booming oil producing state like our neighbor to the north.?A study done by the governor's office says the oil boom that hit North Dakota thanks to the Bakken formation in the western part of that state apparently isn't in store for us. The bulk of the Bakken formation lies in Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan although some say it stretches into Wyoming and South Dakota.

North Dakota has been enjoying an oil boom for the past few years thanks to that formation and last year it produced 152 million barrels. The boom has brought new people, new jobs, new money and new opportunity to the state and the revenue generated has provided a budget surplus for state government.

South Dakota, however, won't be reaping similar benefits. Our state produces about 1.6 million barrels of oil a year and that figure is not expected to exceed 6.5 million barrels a decade from now. That's a bit of a mixed blessing.

South Dakotans can still make money off the North Dakota boom by providing housing and other services that are in short supply in the western oil fields. And although the profits won't reach the levels they have in North Dakota, there is still money to be made.

There are some things we won't mind missing out on like congestion on roads and highways, a housing crunch that's still a problem, an increasing demand for public programs and services and a rise in crime that parts of North Dakota are coping with thanks to the influx of large amounts of people and money. Some of that could spill across our border but not to the extent North Dakota is experiencing.

One other thing South Dakota will miss out on — and be glad it did — is the crash when the boom ends. Oil production is a cyclical business and when prices and demand are high so is the rush to cash in by working fields like the Bakken formation — where getting the oil is more expensive than traditional fields because of where it is located and what it takes to get it.

North Dakota has been producing oil for more than half a century. When prices are high, so is production. When prices are low, so is production. There have been several boom and bust cycles over the last several decades which aren't uncommon for the oil industry. While oil producing states reap the benefits of the boom years, they also must cope with the problems of the down years. When oil production is reduced, so are the number of available jobs and that inevitably leads to people going elsewhere to seek employment.

It would be nice to be able to enjoy the financial benefits that North Dakota is enjoying because of the Bakken boom. But North Dakotans have been down this road before and know it won't last forever. South Dakota needs to take advantage of what it can while it can and be glad we won't have to deal with the problems the boom has already brought and the ones that will almost certainly come in the future.

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