The population of Arnegard temporarily quadrupled this week as hundreds of people gathered in Nelson Park for one of two annual ND Petroleum Council Cookfests.
Project Would Generate $940K in Tax Revenue
The Stark County Commission is being asked to approve a conditional use permit for a plan by Marathon Petroleum Corporation to install five 2.3 megawatt wind turbines at MPC’s renewable diesel facility near Dickinson.
A fact sheet produced by MPC indicates the project represents a $24 million investment in the county, and it is expected to pay $940,000 in local taxes over the life of the project. In addition, One Energy, the company that will install and operate the turbines for MPC, will offer five $5,000 ‘Megawatt Scholarships’ to local high school graduates for every year the turbines are operating. The refinery itself currently generates $2.1 million in annual property taxes, and pays $19 million annually in wages and benefits to its employees.
MPC's application for the conditional use permit was initially scheduled for a July 29 hearing before the Stark County Planning and Zoning Commission, but One Energy has asked the zoning board to postpone consideration until its September 2 meeting. Action on the project was complicated by the county’s recent enactment of a moratorium on wind farms, which was subsequently rescinded after Stark County State’s Attorney Amanda Engelstad issued a letter in which she stated that the moratorium was not properly enacted. The county commission has drafted a revised version that appears on the July 29 planning and zoning commission agenda. The new draft doesn't apply specifically to wind. Instead, it describes the criteria that would be required for the county to enact a "development moratorium."
The plan for construction of the wind turbines on the refinery site was announced in May. MPC has contracted with One Energy to develop, own, and operate the turbines. One Energy will provide the capital for the project and MPC will pay a fixed price for the wind-generated electricity for a period of 20 years. The turbines are expected to generate more than 40 million kilowatt hours each year, providing about 45 percent of the renewable diesel facility’s electricity needs. MPC officials point out that the project's main purpose is not to sell into the grid like commercial wind farms, and that electricity from the five wind turbines would be used by the refinery.
MPC Executive Vice President of Refining Ray Brooks said the wind turbines will further reduce the company's carbon emissions profile and position the refinery for long-term success in a very competitive industry.
“At Marathon Petroleum, we are focused on delivering essential energy products to the world in ways that create shared value for our people, business partners, customers, communities, governments and shareholders,” Brooks said. “Lowering the carbon intensity of the renewable fuels we produce at our Dickinson facility helps us to capture additional value in the markets we serve and enhance the overall sustainability of our operations.”
MPC’s Dickinson plant is the second-largest renewable diesel production facility in the U.S., and has a production capacity of 184 million gallons per year. The facility's current feedstock consists of 70 percent soybean oil and 30 percent distiller's corn oil. Collectively, it supports about 1.5 million acres of soybean crops and three million acres of corn.
If approved by the Stark County Commission, the project would still require environmental review and a site permit from the ND Public Service Commission. Construction would begin in 2022.
Don't Ever, Ever Apologize for What You Do
North Dakota Needs to Put a Face on the Industry
North Dakota Congressman Kelly Armstrong made a surprise appearance this week at the Bakken Rocks Cookfest in Arnegard, urging the crowd at a session on Bakken Basics to help educate the country about the importance of the state's fossil fuel industry.
Armstrong said there is a growing perception among young adults that "climate change" is a serious issue, which he said means North Dakotans can no longer sit on the sidelines hoping for the best. He said the oil, gas and coal industry generally does a good job explaining what it does and how it contributes to national security. But Armstrong, citing the recent announcement that a new owner would purchase Coal Creek Station and keep it in operation, said it's important to put a human face on the issue.
Click here to listen to Armstrong's comments.
Armstrong said many North Dakotans take their knowledge of fossil fuels for granted, so find it hard to understand how people could be opposed to the industry. He said it's not borne out of hostility, it's because no one has ever explained it to them.
Click here to listen to Armstrong's comments.
Armstrong concluded his remarks by urging the crowd to be proud of the industry and their communities."Engage in this," Armstrong said. "Be proud of what you do. Don't ever, ever apologize for the industry or the communities you choose to live in because it's the greatest place in the greatest state in the greatest country in the history of the world."
GNDC Event to Cover ESG Movement
The effect of a movement that discourages investment in fossil fuels is among the topics that will be discussed at the Greater North Dakota Chamber's 2021 Policy Summit to be held August 12 in Bismarck.
The event brings together business and government leaders to discuss topics affecting North Dakota's business climate and the state's future growth. One of those topics is ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) criteria, which has created concern in North Dakota because of its implications for the oil, gas and coal industries. The concept behind ESG is that it promotes "sustainable business practices," which in the eyes of some means moving away from fossil fuels.
GNDC has put together a panel that includes Nicole Kivisto, President and CEO of Montana-Dakota Utilities; Blu Hulsey, Senior VP Government & Regulatory Affairs for Continental Resources; and State Treasurer Thomas Beadle. The panel will be moderated by Lt. Governor Brent Sanford. Discussion will focus on how ESG policies are influencing business decisions in North Dakota. A specific discussion point will focus on the ways ESG is impacting energy producers and their suppliers, including access to capital and insurances needed to operate.
The policy summit features three other panel discussions. Topics include:
- Is Constitutional Measure Reform Needed?
- Too big, too small, just right - Views on ND's $16.9B Budget
- ND's Changing Political Dynamics and Policy Implications
The event will get underway at 9:00 a.m, August 12, at the Ramkota Hotel and Convention Center in Bismarck. Registration is $125 for GNDC members and $175 for non-members. Click here for additional details or to register.
Federal Nominee Commits to Follow Law
During a confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week, Senator Kevin Cramer pressed the nominee who would oversee the Army Corps of Engineers' review of the Dakota Access Pipeline to keep politics out of the process.
Michael Connor is the Biden administration's nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works). Cramer first questioned Connor about North Dakota’s water and energy priorities, and the negative impact of excessive federal regulations. He then asked Connor about the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is currently in the midst of a Corps-directed environmental study of its Missouri River crossing after a federal judge ruled that a previous environmental analysis was inadequate.
Cramer noted that DAPL has been operating safely for four years, and will continue to do so while the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is being developed. He asked for Connor's commitment that he will do everything he can to keep politics out of the EIS process.
Click here to listen to Connor's response.
Click here to read an article from WDEA's May 21 newsletter about the judge's decision to allow DAPL to continue operating while the environmental study is completed. Click here to watch a YouTube video of the exchange between Cramer and Connor.
Bill Modeled After ND CARES Act Program
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave its approval this week to the Revive Economic Growth and Reclaim Orphaned Wells (REGROW) Act, which envisions a program similar to North Dakota's effort to plug and reclaim abandoned oil wells.
Senator Kevin Cramer is co-sponsor of the bipartisan bill along with Democrat Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.
“Congress passing the REGROW Act would mean new jobs for oilfield workers, fewer environmental hazards in local communities, and more land available for production,” Cramer said. “I applaud Chairman Manchin for advancing our bill and those on the Energy Committee like Senators Hoeven, Heinrich and Cassidy who have been supportive of this effort and recognize the need for it."
Cramer and Luján introduced the REGROW Act in April, with ND Representative Kelly Armstrong and Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX) introducing its House companion in June. If passed, the bill would provide $4.275 billion for orphaned well cleanup on state and private lands; $400 million for orphaned well cleanup on public and tribal lands; and $32 million for related research, development and implementation.
The ND Industrial Commission approved a similar program last year using CARES Act dollars to help retain workers displaced by the decline in oil prices. Click here to read an article in the June 5, 2020 WDEA newsletter about testimony by Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, in which he described North Dakota's well-plugging program to a U.S. House Subcommittee.
Click here to read Renée Jean's article in the Williston Herald about committee passage of the bill.
Developing Long-Term Infrastructure Plan
The City of Watford City is seeking public input on development of a long-term plan for community infrastructure. The city has scheduled a Community Engagement Open House from 5:30-7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20, at the Rough Rider Center.
Over the last decade, communities across western North Dakota have experienced rapid population growth, primarily due to increased oil and gas activity. Watford City was one of the fastest growing communities in the state, increasing in population from 1,800 people in 2010 to an estimated 7,000-plus people today. City officials note that while population growth presents many economic benefits and opportunities, it also creates challenges that put a strain on municipal services and finances.
The City of Watford City relies heavily on gross production tax revenues, sales tax revenues, property tax revenues, and utility (water, sewer, garbage) fees to fund new infrastructure, upgrade or replace older facilities and keep up with operations and maintenance. With the recent slowdown in western North Dakota and the world, city officials say they want to better position the community for the future and align funding sources to ensure a resilient infrastructure plan is in place.
The city launched a process last year to develop a Watford City 2040 Infrastructure Master Plan to guide the city in implementing operations, maintenance and infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years. The Community Engagement Open House will begin with a brief presentation by the project team, followed by open access to stations focusing on roads, sidewalks, and paths; water, sewer, and stormwater infrastructure; and city buildings and amenities. The open house will offer opportunities for residents to learn about projects, progress that has been made, learn about the existing infrastructure systems, ask questions of the project team, and provide input on the master plan.
Main Street Summit Set for October 12
Nominations for the 2021 Governor’s Main Street Awards are being accepted through August 13. Awards in five different categories will be presented at the Main Street ND Summit on October 12 in West Fargo.
“Every year we are grateful to see all the communities and individuals taking innovative approaches to build healthy, vibrant communities,” said Gov. Doug Burgum. “These awards are a great reflection of the dedication that many North Dakotans have to enhance the quality of life for current and future residents.”
The Main Street Awards are a collaborative effort of the Office of Governor and the ND Department of Commerce. A selection committee made up of the collaborating agencies and partners will judge the entries to determine the award winners. This year’s award categories include:
ND Legendary Heritage Award – This award recognizes communities focused on preserving, protecting and celebrating their historical and cultural heritage.
Healthy, Vibrant Community Award – This award recognizes communities or groups that have made investments in projects that enhance the health and vibrancy of communities.
Smart, Efficient Infrastructure Award – This award recognizes a community that has made sound planning decisions by investing in spaces with existing infrastructure, such as a vacant lot (infill) or dilapidated building.
21st Century Workforce Award – Two awards are given in this category to recognize excellence in either efforts to attract or retain workforce or efforts to train existing workers in a community.
Main Street Excellence Award – This award recognizes communities whose efforts embody all three pillars of the Main Street Initiative: Smart, Efficient Infrastructure; 21st Century Workforce; and Healthy, Vibrant Communities.
Click here for more information or to nominate an individual or business.
Roundabout to be Built at 49/200 Junction
Construction began Monday on Highway 200 from the south junction of Highway 8 near Halliday to the junction of Highway 49 near Beulah.
The project includes milling and asphalt overlay, as well as minor sidewalk reconstruction in Dodge. A roundabout will be constructed at the intersection of ND 200 and ND 49. Traffic will be maintained through the intersection during the construction of the roundabout using flaggers and a four-way stop condition.
Flaggers will be present during certain phases of the project. The speed limit will be reduced throughout the work zone. A width restriction of 11 feet will be in place throughout the milling and overlay operations. The project is expected to be completed this fall.
For more information about construction projects and road conditions throughout North Dakota, call 511 or visit the ND Roads map.
STIP Outlines Plans to Use Federal Dollars
The North Dakota Department of Transportation has published a draft of its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and is seeking comments on the plan through August 15.
The STIP is a four-year program of transportation improvements that are funded with federal highway and transit monies. Improvements include projects on the state and county highways, urban streets, roadway safety features, and bikeways and busing programs, all of which will be supported with federal funds.
Click here to download an electronic copy of the draft STIP. Hard copies are also available for viewing at district offices, or individual copies may be obtained from Logan Beise, NDDOT Programming Division, at 701-328-2139.
Comments on the Draft STIP should be submitted to the appropriate NDDOT regional office or by email to email@example.com. Click here to submit a comment online.
Numbers Still Trailing Pre-Pandemic
North Dakota’s eight commercial service airports posted a total of 81,499 airline passenger boardings during the month of June, the highest level of passenger traffic the state has seen since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Despite the continuing positive trend last month, the state's commercial airport boarding numbers still lag well behind those posted in June 2019. Passenger numbers statewide are now about 19 percent below the pre-pandemic passenger levels two years ago.
“The continual growth in demand for air travel is great news and helps to fuel optimism for the airline industry that is operating within our state,” said Kyle Wanner, Director of the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission. “I encourage all of our residents and visitors to consider utilizing our North Dakota airports within any travel plans as any additional demand will help to leverage and expedite the return of more flight and destination options for our communities.”
Minot has led the rebound among western communities. The 12,033 passenger count in June is less than 12 percent below the June 2019 total of 13,632. Dickinson recorded 1,735 boardings in June, about 300 fewer than two years ago. The number of passengers flying out of the Williston Basin International Airport remains less than half what it was in 2019. A total of 3,411 passengers boarded flights in June, compared to 8,009 two years ago. However, that total is far above the 1,320 passengers who boarded flights in Williston in June 2020.
Click here to see a table of historic boarding figures at the state's eight commercial airports.
Communities Gather for BBQ in the Bakken
The cities of Arnegard and Mohall and their surrounding communities gathered on Tuesday and Thursday respectively for the annual Bakken Rocks CookFest.
The events organized by the ND Petroleum Council bring together hundreds from around the state to meet oil and gas industry employees in their backyards. The companies served free food and beverages to all who attended, and competed to win the coveted Judge's Choice and People's Choice awards.
Arnegard winners included:
- Judges' Choice: GO Wireline
- People's Choice: Continental Resources/WellPro
Mohall winners included:
- Judges' Choice for Best Ribs: Murex Petroleum Corporation
- Judges' Choice for Best Burger: Eagle Operating/Spectrum Industries
- People's Choice: Balon Valves/Sund Manufacturing/Cobra Oil & Gas
Community residents had an opportunity to attend a two-hour Bakken Basics educational session. The events also featured visits from state and local leaders, live music, and games for kids to enjoy. Collectively, the 19 industry teams cooking in Arnegard and Mohall served a mountain of delicious food:
- 270 lbs brisket and banana pudding
- 90 lbs spare ribs
- 70 lbs pork loins
- 250 sliders and s'mores
- 55 racks of pork ribs
- 144 buster burgers, mac and cheese and dessert
- 100 burgers
- 140 lbs pulled pork and coleslaw
- 150 lbs burnt ends
- 160 lbs prime rib
- 200 pulled pork slider, beans, and chips
- 100 BBQ burgers
- 450 Philly Cheese Fracking Sliders
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.
- Effect of Biden moratorium on ND oil is substantial, widespread -- Williston Herald
- US crude oil production efficiency increased only in Bakken region in 2020 -- EIA
- Line 3 pipeline opponents appeal to Minnesota Supreme Court -- Bismarck Tribune
- Shale oil now has a new benchmark that can replace WTI -- Williston Herald
- Calumet to tap into renewable diesel fuels with $200 million project -- Helena Independent Record
- Goldman Sachs caught in flareup over natural gas emissions in North Dakota -- NY Post
- Legacy Fund earnings beat forecast; $871 million for 2019-21 biennium -- AP News
- Strong oil prices good for state treasury, but make roads expensive -- Bismarck Tribune
- August 1 is effective date of hundreds of new laws in North Dakota -- KVRR-TV
- Jacobs op-ed: North Dakota Secretary of state race will be one to watch -- Grand Forks Herald
- North Dakota group seeking term limits can now gather signatures -- Dickinson Press
- Leslie Bieber named Northwestern Superintendent of the Year -- McKenzie County Farmer
- Aaron Anderson named director of SW Career and Technical Ed Academy -- Dickinson Press
- Seventh annual ND Indian Education Summit brings educators together -- KX News
- North Dakota heat dome next will wreak havoc on crops -- Hot 97.5 FM
- The North Dakota State Fair returns after cancellation one year ago -- Minot Daily News
- Could Tioga be the host of North Dakota's oil museum? -- Tioga Tribune
- Voters’ petition triggers special election in Tioga -- Tioga Tribune
- Stanley teen among best cowboys in nation -- Mountrail County Promoter
- McKenzie County launches virtual reality GPS tours of the community -- City of Watford City
- U.S. Senate panel passes energy measure likely to shape infrastructure bill -- Reuters
- California’s Power Jam: Unreliable renewables state to scramble for electricity. -- Wall Street Journal
- In 2020, U.S. coal production fell to its lowest level since 1965 -- Energy Information Administration
- Media, activist groups try to build anti-fracking strawman, but come up empty -- Energy in Depth
- Drilling permits increase despite Biden climate pledge, 2,100 since Jan. 20 -- AP News
- Pipeline operator Kinder Morgan to buy Kinetrex Energy in green energy push -- Reuters
Factoid of the Week
Rough Rider Center - Watford City
Bismarck and Washburn
EERC - Grand Forks
The ARC - Williston
July 16, 2021
WTI Crude: $71.81
Brent Crude: $73.59
Natural Gas: $3.67
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 23 (Unchanged) 7/16/2020 -- 11 rigs