Lush fields of canola set against the backdrop of a working oil pad are a rare sight this year as drought ravages much of North Dakota. This photo was taken in 2019 near Belfield.
Coal Creek Sale Produced a "Sigh of Relief"
The operators of the regional electric grid that supplies electricity to much of North Dakota are concerned about the rapid pace of coal plant retirements and the threat it could pose to grid reliability.
In his annual report to the ND Industrial Commission, John Weeda, director of the ND Transmission Authority, said MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) is predicting serious reliability issues within the next decade based on the current pace at which baseload generating plants are being retired. MISO's latest generation forecast (presented to ND legislators in March) predicts that coal generation, which currently supplies nearly 40% of MISO power, will be just seven percent of the generation mix in the early 2030s.
Although MISO managers cannot advocate for one source of generation over another, Weeda said he gets the sense they appreciate North Dakota's efforts to defend its coal fleet and promote technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions. And he said MISO officials were relieved when they heard the announcement that North Dakota's 1,151-megawatt Coal Creek Station would be sold and the new owner would keep it in operation.
Click here to listen to Weeda's comments.
With about 57,000 megawatts, MISO has the largest coal fleet of any grid operator, but it's estimated 12,000-to-18,000 MW within MISO’s footprint is at risk of retirement by the end of 2023. Weeda said based on those retirements, plus the possibility of large numbers of electric vehicles needing power, MISO estimates it would require a huge amount of money -- $150 billion -- to develop the needed generation and transmission to meet demand in the coming decade. He believes there is a disconnect between the aspirational goals of clean energy advocates and what is realistically achievable in a short time frame.
Click here to listen to Weeda's comments.
Weeda said North Dakota and its electric industry representatives need to maintain a strong voice within MISO to ensure the grid operator maintains adequate generation and transmission assets to meet demand on peak summer and winter days. He told the Industrial Commission that an update to North Dakota's demand forecast is in the works, factoring in the possible development of power-hungry data farms and the expectations of the oil and gas industry.
North Dakota currently has 4,084 megawatts of coal generation, just over 4,000 megawatts of wind generation, 614 megawatts of hydroelectric power from the Garrison Dam, and 586 megawatts of natural gas-fired generation.
More Redistricting Meetings in September
The ND Legislature's Redistricting Committee met for the first time this week to begin discussions about redrawing legislative district boundaries, agreeing that their intent would be to keep the current number of 47 districts.
The 16-member committee, chaired by Finley Rep. Bill Devlin, heard presentations on the historical background, mapping software, and population data that will impact the final map. Some left-leaning groups have questioned the fairness of the process, pointing out the committee is made up of 14 Republicans and only two Democrats, and no representation from Native Americans or other minority groups.
In defense of the process, Devlin pointed out the political balance reflects the current makeup of the legislature, where both houses have huge Republican majorities. The chairman also noted that the interim Tribal and State Relations Committee was meeting with the state's Indian tribes to gather input on redistricting.
In response to a question from West Fargo Rep. Austin Schauer about criticism of the redistricting process, Emily Thompson, code revisor with Legislative Council, said there are multiple statutory requirements governing the committee's work. And she said historically, redistricting committees have self-imposed additional measures to ensure fairness of the process.
Click here to listen to Thompson's comments.
The committee heard testimony during the meeting from several individuals who encouraged members to avoid gerrymandering based on political interests and splitting Native American populations. The new district boundaries will be especially important to western North Dakota, which stands to gain representation due to population increases associated with growth in the state's oil industry.
Due to COVID-related delays in the release of census data, the committee plans an aggressive schedule to complete its work prior to a special legislative session that is expected to occur in November. The committee will hold just one meeting outside Bismarck. It will meet September 8 in Fargo, which when combined with surrounding communities, represents more than a fourth of the state's population. Meetings are also planned for September 15-16, 22-23, and 28-29 at the Capitol with an opportunity for public comment in each.
Click here to read a summary of North Dakota's population change, including the 2020 Census number for every community. Click here to read a background memo with history of the redistricting process and a description of legal requirements that must be followed.
All legislative committee meetings are live streamed and archived. Click here for the legislative video page.
Asks Court to Order BLM to Resume Sales
ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a motion this week asking a federal judge to order the Bureau of Land Management to resume conducting quarterly oil and gas lease sales in North Dakota.
“I have taken this action to protect North Dakota’s economy, the jobs of our hardworking citizens, and North Dakota’s rights to protect and manage our own natural resources,” Stenehjem said.
Earlier this year, BLM began unilaterally canceling the quarterly oil and gas lease sales that it is required by law to conduct. Stenehjem says the cancellation of the March and June auctions has already cost the State more than $82 million in lost revenues, a loss that could grow to billions in the coming months.
The filing notes that on a recent call between the leadership of the BLM Montana/Dakotas office and constituents from North Dakota, BLM officials stated that they were cancelling lease sales at least through the end of calendar year 2021, in direct violation of a separate court decision in Louisiana ordering that BLM resume lease sales.
“I am asking the court to order BLM to comply with the law because I cannot stand idly by while our state loses tens of millions in lost revenue that funds our citizens’ schools, social services, parks and roads,” Stenehjem said.
The motion was submitted to Judge Daniel Traynor in federal District Court in Bismarck. Click here to read or download the 82-page document.
Date Sales Would Resume is Still Uncertain
After months of contentious battles over Joe Biden's imposition of a moratorium on new federal oil and gas leases, the administration filed court papers Tuesday stating it will restart offshore lease sales as early as October.
In June, a federal judge in Louisiana sided with 13 states suing the administration, ordering an end to the moratorium. Following the decision, the Administration stated they would comply with the decision, but took no steps to do so.
Now, two months later, the Biden administration filed a brief with the court to show why it should not be held in contempt for failing to comply with the order. The filing said the Department of Interior has "expended significant agency resources, including many hundreds of employee-hours, preparing to hold oil and gas lease sales."
The brief also stated the agency will take procedural steps by the end of this month to prepare for a sale of oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The auction itself is expected in October or November. The Bureau of Land Management will post a list of parcels for potential onshore leasing within the next week, followed by a public comment period that will result in sale notices published in December.
Click here to read more about the brief.
Decision Now Expected in September 2022
The US Army Corps of Engineers has added another six months to its timeline for completing a court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement on the Dakota Access Pipeline river crossing in south-central North Dakota.
The Corps posted an update to its DAPL website this week indicating that in its consultation with cooperating agencies (Standing Rock, Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribes, and the State of North Dakota), "there has been a concern about the time provided to allow for their input."
The Corps received a formal request to extend the targeted completion date of March 2022 by six months and, according to the website, "the Corps has agreed to extend the schedule to allow time to conduct any studies or reviews necessary to contribute to the development of the EIS." Publication of the Final EIS for the DAPL river crossing is now projected for September 2022.
The crude oil pipeline began operation in June 2017, having met all the construction permitting requirements in the law. But Federal Judge James Boasberg subsequently ruled that the Missouri River crossing between Morton and Emmons County should have been subject to an EIS rather than the less-comprehensive environmental analysis. The judge's ruling effectively invalidated DAPL's river crossing easement, but Boasberg later issued an order rejecting the request of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for an injunction that would have shut down DAPL while the additional environmental review was conducted.Earlier this month, the pipeline's operator Energy Transfer Partners announced the first phase of the planned expansion of DAPL capacity had been placed into service. The 1,176-mile pipeline is now operating with a system capacity of 750,000 barrels per day, up from 570,000 bbl/day previously. The upgrade, which will ultimately allow DAPL to transport up to 1.1 million bbl/day, will likely serve as an economic stimulant to drilling activity in the Bakken.
Funding to Finalize Runway Renovation
The ND Aeronautics Commission approved an $8.3 million state grant yesterday that will fund completion of work on a major runway reconstruction project at the Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport in Dickinson.
The Federal Aviation Administration will pitch in $7.78 million, and the City of Dickinson just under $1 million to pay for the final phase of the work. Previous allocations funded construction of a parallel runway to be used while work on the primary runway is completed. Nels Lund, Airport Planner with the Aeronautics Commission, said funding approved this week will cover construction of the north end of the new runway, new lighting for the entire length of the runway, plus navigational equipment and various engineering and environmental costs.
Click here to listen to Lund's comments.
State funding for the project comes from a $20 million appropriation by the 2019 Legislature to the Aeronautics Commission. The money also supported work on the airport runway realignment project currently underway in Watford City (see May 21 WDEA newsletter).
Lund said reconstruction of the primary runway is expected to be completed and in operation by the fall of 2022. He said the grant approved this week will also support work to be performed in 2023 to convert the temporary runway to a taxiway. The new runway will be 7,300 feet long and 150 feet wide with a weight-bearing capacity of 90,000 pounds. It will accommodate existing commercial aircraft that fly in and out of Dickinson, and has sufficient capacity to accommodate potentially larger aircraft in the future.
Airport Manager Kelly Braun was recently interviewed for an article that appeared in the Dickinson Press. Braun described the need for the reconstruction work.
“The existing runway was deficient in several areas. We didn’t have the strength to be able to handle the aircraft that were providing commercial service here in Dickinson (with) United Airlines… It did not have the proper strength to be able to handle those aircraft that were coming in and out, which accelerated the wear of the runway that we had,” Braun said. “We had to look at other options. The runway that we had was also deficient in its runway safety areas. So Dickinson has historically received its commercial service through small and medium regional aircraft turboprop aircraft, which are significantly smaller; we're talking 19-seat aircraft. That increased to a 30-seat aircraft, then increased to a 50-seat aircraft. So we outgrew our runway and we had to make some changes.”
Click here to read the Dickinson Press article.
New Rules May Have "Chilling Effect"
The Board of University and School Lands adopted a new media relations policy this week that has the media concerned about its effect on transparency and responsiveness to questions about Land Department operations.
The policy designates Lands Commissioner Jodi Smith as the public information officer for the Land Board. One section of the new rules that has caused media concern requires Smith to inform the five Land Board members by email of "the substance of significant media inquiries and of the Commissioner’s official response." Another rule specifies that Smith may not make policy statements to the media about any issue before the board until it has taken an official position on the issue.
Earlier this year Gov. Doug Burgum suggested developing an internal policy because of board concerns that opinions and statements made by Commissioner Smith could be inferred to represent the views of the Land Board. In addition to Burgum, its members include the attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.
The Land Board, which is responsible for management and oversight of 706,600 state-owned surface acres and nearly 2.6 million mineral acres, received comments from two media representatives expressing concern about portions of the new rules.
"It is my hope that the requirements in this policy do not slow the communication with the media or reduce the level of transparency," wrote Amy Dalrymple, President of the ND Newspaper Association Board of Directors. "I am concerned that the discussion of this media policy could create a chilling effect for the Commissioner."
Dalrymple also expressed concern about the Land Board's frequent closed-door executive sessions to discuss litigation.
"This is likely to continue due to the amount of litigation the board is involved with," Dalrymple wrote. "I would urge the board to only enter executive sessions when discussing legal strategy and allow court case updates to be discussed in an open meeting."
The Land Board also received comments from Jack McDonald, who is a registered lobbyist for the ND Broadcasters Association and the ND Newspaper Association.
Sections of the rules "could, at times, take several days and slow responses to the media at times when they are often operating on tight deadlines," McDonald wrote. "The media is likewise concerned that the requirement all media contacts involving the Board must be funneled through the Commissioner will slow the process."
The board did not change the draft rules based on the comments, and voted unanimously to approve them. Click here to read the media relations policy.
All Districts Received Pandemic Aid
The Associated Press has compiled analysis that shows about $430.2 million in federal aid was allocated to North Dakota schools to help offset the costs of coping with the coronavirus pandemic.
Altogether, the federal government has put $190 billion into schools nationwide since March 2020, which is more than four times what the U.S. Department of Education spends on K-12 in a typical year. The AP tracked more than $156 billion out of the $190 billion sent to states to distribute to schools since last year. It averages about $2,800 per student, but varies widely by district and state.
Amounts allocated to the larger districts in western North Dakota include:
• Minot 1 (7,720 students): $22.26 million
• Williston 1 (4,409 students): $11.18 million
• Dickinson 1 (4,080 students): $10.82 million
• McKenzie Co. (1,911 students): $5.80 million
• New Town (1,017 students): $7.22 million
• Williams Co. 8 (814 students): $1.99 million
• Beulah (734 students): $1.33 million
• Stanley (723 students): $1.48 million
• Killdeer (652 students): $1.39 million
• Bottineau (647 students): $2.44 million
• Nedrose (583 students): $2.43 million
• Hazen (580 students): $835,000
• Bowman Co. (530 students): $743,000
• Tioga (491 students): $753,000
About $13.2 billion was allocated through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, which was part of the March 2020 CARES Act. Another $54.3 billion was allocated in December 2020, and nearly $122 billion was given to states in March 2021.
Click here to see the full list of schools compiled by the AP.
Project Website Set Up for Public Review
The ND Department of Transportation is developing a state Freight and Rail Plan and has launched a project website to keep the public posted as the work proceeds.
The plan will assess all freight modes, identify needs and issues, provide recommendations, guide the advancement of the multimodal transportation system, and serve as a roadmap for future investment. Rail and freight will be developed as a single plan for the first time to create a comprehensive view of the movement of goods into, through, and out of the state.
The website includes information about different modes of transportation in North Dakota, an Online Open House, as well as an interactive map where users can leave comments on particular highways, railroads or intersections in the state. NDDOT will use online engagement opportunities, surveys, videos, social media and direct conversations to collect information to help shape the future of multi-modal freight systems in North Dakota. The state estimates that 516 million tons of freight are transported through North Dakota each year.
NDDOT will be conducting public and stakeholder outreach throughout the next year and a half with the final plan being produced in late 2022. A virtual public meeting is planned October 5 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. and 6:30-7:00 p.m. Click here to see the website.
Contact the project team via email at email@example.com.
WDEA Annual Meeting in Williston
The Western Dakota Energy Association will hold its annual meeting October 13-14 at The ARC in Williston.
The in-person event will get underway at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon, and will begin with one of the event's favorite speakers. Rather than concluding the event, this year's annual meeting will begin with a presentation by Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources. Helms is scheduled to deliver his traditional county-by-county production forecast report at 1:15, following opening remarks by WDEA President Shannon Holter and Williston dignitaries.
Other elements of the agenda are still being developed, but will feature speakers who will provide updates on major energy-related happenings including the pending sale of Coal Creek Station, the development of a hydrogen industry, efforts to develop in-state TENORM disposal options, career and technical education plans, and the ongoing debate over school funding.
The meeting will feature a social, short program and entertainment Wednesday evening. The event concludes Thursday afternoon with election of the WDEA Executive Committee.
Board members up for election who are eligible to serve an additional three-year term include Bowman Mayor Lyn James, Williams County Commissioner David Montgomery, Washburn Superintendent Brad Rinas who represents the Coal Conversion Counties, and a new member will be chosen to represent education members to replace Dickinson Superintendent Shon Hocker, who resigned to accept a position in Idaho.
Gatherings in Back-to-Back Weeks in September
Registration is now open for the annual fall meetings of the ND Petroleum Council and the Lignite Energy Council.
NDPC members will meet at the Rough Rider Center in Watford City September 21-23, and LEC members will gather the following week, September 29-30 at the Bismarck Event Center.
Among the featured speakers at the NDPC meeting will be former Interior Secretary and Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke. Attendees will also hear remarks from Oasis Petroleum CEO Daniel Brown and MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox.
Speakers have not been announced for the LEC meeting, but it will feature its traditional mine and plant updates, awards luncheon and CoalPAC breakfast.
- Enbridge expects Line 3 to be operational in 2021's fourth quarter -- Fargo Forum
- Minnesota Supreme Court delivers blow to Line 3 opponents -- Bismarck Tribune
- Line 3 opponents descend on Minnesota Capitol to seek a stop -- Bismarck Tribune
- Innovation will lead ND to become first carbon neutral state -- Fargo Inc.
- Bette Grande: Sky is falling climate predictions are "badly flawed" -- Fargo Forum
- With production stalling, the Bakken is a sleeping giant -- McKenzie County Farmer
- Bakken Energy CEO: North Dakota's blue hydrogen will be green -- Williston Herald
- First day enrollment numbers down 64 in Minot Public Schools -- Minot Daily News
- Recent rains won't end the drought but 'it is looking a little better around here' -- Ag Week
- Water emergency funding made available in North Dakota -- KFYR-TV
- FCC awards $41M in telehealth funding, Watford City gets $194K -- Becker's Hospital Review
- Emergency Commission approves $2.5M for hay transportation assistance program -- KX News
- Court decision favors central North Dakota water supply project -- Minot Daily News
- Council members promise to address records storage disarray -- Crosby Journal
- Plaza man publishes second children’s book in a series about oil and gas industry -- Valley News Live
- Alexander school sees small enrollment growth, up 15 students -- McKenzie County Farmer
- In-person instruction critical this year in Minot public, private schools -- KFYR-TV
- South Heart Public School establishes virtual academy for online students -- Dickinson Press
- Audit finds 'extensive' issues in finances of Parshall school district -- Bismarck Tribune
- Bowman County school campus gets ready for fall with a few changes -- Bowman County Pioneer
- North Dakota saw a 42.2% increase in home-educated students last year -- KFYR-TV
- Germany flirts with power crunch as nuclear and coal plants close -- Bloomberg Green
- In Montana, Ryan Zinke stages a political comeback, running for House -- Washington Examiner
- New Mexico drilling permits skyrocketed under Trump, 10,000 in four years -- Santa Fe Reporter
- Does climate change cause extreme weather? A scorching reality check -- Real Clear Investigations
- Biden infrastructure plan is Solyndra on steroids, paying off donors -- Real Clear Energy
- Blackrock’s former sustainable investing chief now thinks ESG is a ‘dangerous placebo’ -- CNBC
- Fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal) are used in more ways than just burning for energy. -- Master Resource
- Pennsylvania is catching up with Texas natural gas production -- Farm and Dairy
- We need more U.S. oil production, not an import-more-foreign-oil strategy -- Real Clear Energy
- China's provinces still planning over 100 GW of new coal projects -- Reuters
- California to add five natural gas generation plants to avoid blackouts -- California Globe
- Biden's clean energy program loses opportunity for Afghan lithium -- Institute for Energy Research
Factoid of the Week
Source: Master Resource
via Microsoft Teams
Bismarck Event Center
via Microsoft Teams
Bismarck Event Center
Bismarck Event Center
The ARC - Williston
Bismarck Event Center
Ramkota Hotel - Bismarck
August 27, 2021
WTI Crude: $68.74
Brent Crude: $72.70
Natural Gas: $4.37
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 25 (Unchanged) 8/27/2020 -- 10 rigs