Legislators and lobbyists look on as Gov. Doug Burgum signs into law HB 1425, a bill that requires a portion of the state's Legacy Fund to be invested in North Dakota companies.
Judge Asks for Reasons to Keep Oil Flowing
An attorney for the US Army Corps of Engineers told a federal judge today the Corps will allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to remain in operation while it continues to review the pipeline's environmental impact.
Judge James Boasberg postponed any decision in the case, instead giving pipeline operator Dakota Access LLC 10 days to update the economic impact information it filed last fall. The company also indicated it intends to ask a panel of judges to review Boasberg's earlier finding that DAPL is illegally operating without a Corps permit.
The decision comes two months after the Biden administration requested additional time for a hearing on the decision to get the new administration up to speed. Boasberg expressed surprise during the hearing that the administration had not taken a firm stance after the delay.
Boasberg ruled last year that due to its "controversial" nature, the Corps should have conducted a full Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline's river crossing north of the Standing Rock Reservation, rather than a less-expansive environmental assessment. The EIS record of decision is expected to be issued by March 2022. The Corps' attorney did leave the door open for possible future action if conditions change.
The proceedings are the result of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Tribe. In a news release issued in response to today's court hearing, the extremist group repeated its unfounded claim that an oil spill could poison the Tribe’s drinking water, even though its intake is now 70 miles downstream from the river crossing. The news release quoted Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith regarding a meeting with the new administration.
“In a meeting with members of Biden’s staff earlier this year, we were told that this new administration wanted to ‘get this right.’" Faith said. "Unfortunately, today’s update from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows it has chosen to ignore our pleas and stick to the wrong path.”
Another hearing on the issue will be held on April 19. Click here to view an interview of Craig Stevens, spokesman for GAIN - Grow America's Infrastructure Now coalition, with Chris Berg on Point of View, about the implications of today's decision.
Major Federal Action Requires Consultation
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem sent a strongly-worded letter to the Army Corps of Engineers last week, cautioning the Corps that contemplation of a shut down of the Dakota Access Pipeline requires a government-to-government consultation.
Stenehjem's letter said the US Constitution and federal law require that North Dakota's sovereign status be recognized, and that the Corps must provide the state with "early, meaningful, substantive and ongoing consultation" regarding any major federal action or decision.
"There can be no doubt that a decision to shut down the DAPL would be a major federal action," the letter said.
Stenehjem's correspondence was directed to Lt. General Scott A. Spellmon, Commanding General of the Corps in Washington.
“The State of North Dakota is vitally concerned about the future of the Dakota Access Pipelines, the construction and operation of which has been authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for over four years," Stenehjem wrote. "The Corps has also repeatedly defended DAPL for years as the safest and most environmentally friendly way to promote public interest by transporting oil from North Dakota to distant refineries, safely generating many thousands of good paying jobs and contributing to billions of dollars in tax revenues essential to the state of North Dakota.”
Click here to read Stenehjem's letter.
Measure Will Support In-State Entrepreneurs
Governor Doug Burgum signed into law yesterday one of the more significant bills of the 2021 session, which will require that up to 20 percent of Legacy Fund principal be invested in North Dakota.
HB 1425 directs state investment officials to target up to 10 percent of the principal to infrastructure loans to political subdivisions and to the Bank of North Dakota's certificate of deposit match program; as well as up to 10 percent to equity investments in the state, with an eye toward emerging or expanding companies in the state.
Gov. Burgum said he could appreciate the value of investment capital, speaking from his career in the software industry.
Click here to listen to Burgum's comments.
Because the state would provide loans to unproven businesses and to local government at rates below the average returns the Legacy Fund has previously earned in its 10-year history, Burgum said the public should be aware earnings may be reduced, but also understand that the state would find other value in the investments.
Click here to listen to Burgum's comments.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner said the bill was part of a "trifecta," with the other two measures being a bonding bill, which passed the Senate this week, and legislation that would earmark "streams" to direct the use of future Legacy Fund earnings.
Click here to listen to Wardner's comments.
The bill's prime sponsor, Bismarck Rep. Mike Nathe, said there is a lot of private sector interest in the new source of venture capital.
Click here to listen to Nathe's comments.
Lt. Governor Brent Sanford said the public can expect to see results from the legislation in the very near future.
Click here to listen to Sanford's comments.
The State Investment Board is currently in the process of selecting an investment manager to direct the in-state equity investments. Three firms are being considered, and the board is expected to select a manager by the end of April to target the first $100 million of in-state investments.
The Legacy Fund receives 30 percent of oil tax revenue collected in the state. It currently has a value of $8.3 billion and has generated earnings of about $2.8 billion since its first deposit in September 2011.
Language Does Not Affect Tribal Compact
One of the more contentious tax policy issues of the 2021 session may have been resolved this week with an amendment to legislation aimed at sharing revenue from wells that straddle the boundary of the Fort Berthold Reservation.
The new version of SB 2319 adopted by the House Finance and Taxation Committee represents a "hoghouse," completing gutting the previous the bill (see March 26 newsletter), and replacing it with a new plan for splitting tax revenue from the 132 wells around the perimeter of the reservation. Some of those wells have underground laterals that begin inside the reservation and go out, while others have laterals that begin outside the boundary and go in. The state of North Dakota currently gets a share of the tax revenue from those inside the boundary, but the MHA Nation does not receive tax revenue from those on the outside.
As explained by State Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger, the new proposal directs the Industrial Commission to certify the on-reservation acreage ratio for all the wells, and based on monthly production the tax revenue will be divided equally.
Click here to listen to Rauschenberger's comments.
The agreement doesn't completely satisfy Mark Fox, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. Fox said the tribe would like to recoup tax revenue that wasn't shared in previous years, but he applauded the committee for its effort to find a compromise.
Click here to listen to Fox's comments.
Fox had balked at the previous version of the bill which delayed its effective date to 2023, and was contingent on completion of an oil well in a federal leasing area in either Dunn or McKenzie Counties.
Bismarck Rep. Glenn Bosch said because the amended version of the bill provides a direct appropriation of the tax revenue, it will not require the additional step of amending the current tax sharing compact between the state and the tribe.
Click here to listen to Bosch's comments.The earlier version of the bill narrowly passed the Senate 25-21. Click here to see the "Christmas Tree" version of the latest draft of the bill.
Reduction Gives Industry Time to Adjust
The Senate Appropriations Committee has given its blessing to a bill that would provide a five-year reduction in the coal conversion tax to give the state's lignite industry time to adapt to changing market conditions.
HB 1412, introduced by Underwood Rep. Jeff Delzer, would reduce by 85 percent the amount of conversion tax paid by power plant operators. That amounts to an estimated $42.6 million over the next two years, but does not affect the portion of the tax that supports communities in the three coal-producing counties.
Jonathan Fortner, vice president of government relations and external affairs for the Lignite Energy Council, told committee members the industry needs tax relief to give it time to respond to adverse market conditions attributable to federal government policies.
Click here to listen to Fortner's comments.
Fortner said the lignite industry "employs thousands of working families and serves as the lifeblood of many counties and communities in central North Dakota."
There was discussion in committee of a possible two-year sunset on the tax reduction, but the motion was defeated by the committee. The bill now goes to the full Senate, and if approved will be returned to the House. The original version of the bill provided just a 60 percent tax reduction, but it was increased to 85 percent by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee. WDEA submitted testimony in support of the legislation.
Appropriators Want to Discuss Funding Level
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted this morning to approve a bill that would establish a Clean, Sustainable Energy Authority, but wants more discussion about the proper amount of funding allocated to the authority.
The committee approved an amendment to HB 1452 offered by Fargo Senator Kyle Davison to reduced the appropriation in the bill from $40 million back to $25 million, the amount provided when the bill was originally introduced. The goal of the legislation is low-emission technology to bring new advancements to market, create new jobs, and "clean up the air and, reduce urban smog, and address global warming issues." Davison said the intent is similar to other state programs aimed at encouraging economic diversification.
Click here to listen to Davison's comments.
Low-emission technology as described in the bill includes biofuels, solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, carbon recycling, carbon sequestration, use of waste heat, recycling, low-emission technologies that create or use hydrogen, coal, oil, natural gas, and energy efficiency initiatives. The bill has broad support, but Davison said he has questions about the amount of funding in the bill.
Click here to listen to Davison's comments.
Committee Chairman Ray Holmberg of Grand Forks supported Davison's amendment to reduce the funding amount, which will likely result in the appointment of House-Senate conference committee.
"I just didn't want us to pass the bill and it immediately goes to the governor," Holmberg said. "There needs to be more discussion."
The bill sets up an eight-member authority including representation from the oil, coal and renewable energy sectors, as well as a member to be appointed by the Western Dakota Energy Association. Fargo Senator Tim Mathern offered an amendment to the bill that would have added representatives from the wind and solar industries, and required a cost-benefit analysis of projects considered for funding, but it was rejected by the committee.
Public Transparency Added in Amendment
The ND Senate unanimously approved legislation this week outlining a process to redraw legislative district boundaries later this year, including language adding more transparency to the process.
Legislative redistricting happens once every 10 years using new census data, re-balancing population in districts based on shifts that have occurred. The original version of HB 1397 met with opposition over what some complained was a lack of transparency in the process. Critics complained that failure to distribute redistricting plans prior to an actual meeting did not provide citizens adequate time for proper analysis and useful comment.
The Senate Political Subdivisions Committee responded to that criticism last week by amending the bill to allow the public to see redistricting drafts once they are ready for the legislative committee meeting. Sen. Howard Anderson from Turtle Lake said that would likely be two weeks prior to the meeting.
Click here to listen to Anderson's comments.
An exemption to the open record law remains, however, in the release of preliminary versions of the draft plans.
Click here to listen to Anderson's comments.
The amended bill will now be sent back to the House, which previously approved the measure on an 86-8 vote.
House Majority Leader Chet Pollert was quoted in the Bismarck Tribune saying he expects the redistricting committee to meet at least seven times in the summer and fall. It will have a shorter time to meet than previous years because the release of census data has been delayed. Redistricting legislation is due November 30 for the legislature to consider in a special session.
Compromise Allows Local Decision
The Senate debate this week over HB 1323, a bill that would have banned state or local elected officials from mandating that individuals use a face mask or other face covering, boiled down to the role of government to ensure public safety vs. personal liberty and freedom. In the end, the Senate adopted a "compromise" amendment and approved the bill.
The comprise language, offered by Beulah Senator Jessica Bell, prevents state elected officials and the state health officer from issuing a mask mandate, but will allow local governments and businesses to impose a mandate.
The bill had come to the Senate floor with a 6-1 Do Not Pass recommendation from the Senate Political Subdivisions Committee. Turtle Lake Senator Howard Anderson said there was considerable local opposition to banning mask mandates.
Click here to listen to Anderson's comments.
Senator Bell said she understood that people have strong views on both sides of the issue, but the compromise offers a good balance between the two.
Click here to listen to Bell's comments.
Williston Senator Brad Bekkedahl, a dentist by profession, opposed the original bill and also voted against the compromise version. Bekkedahl said he was called to active-duty in the National Guard last year and performed over 200 days of oral swab testing for the COVID virus in western North Dakota.
“That entire time,” he said, “I was wearing a mask and protective equipment as I do everyday in my dental office as mandated by the CDC.”
Bekkedahl said he always wears a mask when he leaves his house but said he did not wear a mask while spending time with family during the Christmas holiday. He said there were children in attendance who turned out to be asymptomatic carriers.
“One week later, four of us came down with fairly severe cases of COVID," he said. "I missed the first week of the legislative session because of that.”
Bekkedahl said the state should have the power to require actions that protect public health because there may be even more serious pandemics in the future.
Click here to listen to Bekkedahl's comments.
Edinburg Senator Janne Myrdal argued for personal freedom and liberty and that mask-wearing has become a political issue. She said she trusts her constituents to make the right decision regarding their personal safety.
Click here to listen to Myrdal's comments.
The Senate approved the amendment 37-10 and passed the amended bill 30-17. The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence.
Click here for an article on this week’s passage of HB 1323 from the Bismarck Tribune.
The idea of teaching Native American tribal history in schools has bounced back and forth between the legislative chambers this session, but not because lawmakers disagree with the concept. The discussions are mostly about logistics in implementation and the role of the legislature in requiring specific details in educational standards.
SB 2304 sailed through the House this week after previously failing on a tie vote, but has now landed in a conference committee to further fine-tune the bill.
Upon reconsideration, the House divided the bill into two sections. One addressed the addition of the curriculum in elementary and middle schools, which easily passed. The second section addressed high schools and added a graduation requirement plus specific curriculum to U.S. History classes. The section met with opposition from some who thought it was not the proper role of the legislature to specify curriculum details, but it also passed by a narrow margin.
The final vote on the re-combined bill passed on a 72 to 21 vote.
Casselton Rep. Brandy Pyle, a member of House Education Committee, told colleagues on the House floor that the addition of the educational requirement would benefit North Dakota in many ways.
Click here to listen to Pyle's comments.
The Senate, however, refused to concur with the House due to a desire to change the effective date to 2024 to avoid imposing the requirement on students currently in high school. A conference committee has been appointed.
Industry, Counties to Discuss Transportation
Registration is now open for a Western Energy Roundtable that will bring together oil industry leaders and county road managers to discuss issues of concern and brainstorm solutions.
The gathering is scheduled to begin May 6 at 9:00 a.m. MDT at the new Dunn County Highway Shop in Halliday. The event is co-sponsored by WDEA and the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute's Local Technical Assistance Program.
The agenda includes presentations and Q&A sessions with NDDOT Director Bill Panos, Lt. Governor Brent Sanford, and a panel of industry representatives including ND Petroleum Council President Ron Ness. Attendees will also hear a tribal roads update from MHA Nation CEO Scott Satermo, a LoadPass Permits update from Brent Bogar and Joelle VanderLinden, and a discussion of the latest roads and bridges needs study with Alan Dybing from UGPTI.
Registration is free, but is required to get an accurate meal count. Click here to register. Lunch will be provided compliments of Dunn County.
Click here to see the agenda.
The ND Department of Transportation announced seasonal load restrictions have been lifted on ND highways in the southwest region effective April 6.
The decision affects highways south of I-94 from the Montana border to the Missouri River.
Information about local road restrictions in counties that participate in WDEA's LoadPass Permits system is available in an interactive and searchable map. Users can click any area of the map to get a quick rundown of restrictions in that area. LoadPass also features a detailed county-by-county notification list of load restrictions.
Detailed load restriction information for state roads is available by calling 511 or online at ND Roads.
Motorists are always encouraged to check state and county load restriction information as restrictions may change quickly due to adverse weather.
Conditions Worsen, Fire Danger is Extreme
Livestock Water Supply Program Open to Ranchers
Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a statewide drought disaster for extremely dry conditions across North Dakota, with the weekly Drought Monitor map now showing 70% of the state in extreme drought.
The governor and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring also announced the State Water Commission has reactivated the Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program.
"Today’s action by the State Water Commission provides relief to help livestock producers manage these hardships and invests in infrastructure that allows them to remain resilient against future droughts," Burgum said.
The water program provides eligible livestock producers with 50 percent cost-share assistance of up to $4,500 per project, with a limit of three projects per applicant. Eligible projects include new water wells, rural water system connections, pipeline extensions, pasture taps and associated works, labor, materials, and equipment rentals to develop new water supply projects.
The 2017 program supported more than 500 projects with total cost-share of approximately $1.5 million. Thursday's unanimous vote by the State Water Commission will utilize the remaining balance of $557,277 from the 2017 program to support this year’s program reactivation.
“The Drought Disaster Livestock Water Supply Project Assistance Program has been invaluable in the past for livestock producers facing water shortages,” Goehring said. “Reopening the program will again help producers as we navigate this season of drought.”
Livestock producers in counties impacted by extreme drought intensity levels, and adjacent counties, will be eligible for the program. Details are available on the Water Commission’s website at www.swc.nd.gov. Producers wanting more information may also contact the State Water Commission at 701-328-4989 or email@example.com.
$45,000 Raised for Community Causes
More than 1,000 people attended the 2021 Chili Cook-off organized by the Williston Basin Chapter of the American Petroleum Institute. This was the 40th anniversary of the event, which raised a total $40,000 for various organizations in and around Williston.
API President Ken Callahan credited the board of directors and all the teams involved for helping organize the event. Callahan also thanked a large number of volunteers and other organizations for their support and assistance.
Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative/VFW won the “Judges' Favorite” chili award as determined by a panel of nine judges. MWEC/VFW also claimed the award for the “Best Decorated Booth.”
The “Fan Favorite” chili award went to the MDU/Nova Oilfield Services team. Liberty Oilfield Services won the “Most Valuable Team” award for the second year in a row and fifth time in seven years.
In all, 21 teams competed for various awards throughout the March 27 event at the Raymond Family Community Center. The Chili Cook-off is one of two community-wide fundraisers Williston API holds each year. For a complete listing of the winning teams, click here for a full recap.
The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference has announced a panel discussion of North Dakota industry innovations will highlight Day One of the meeting.
Kevin Black, President of Creedence Energy Services, will talk about how enhanced oil recovery is going green with bio-surfactants, and Eric Dille, Director of Government Relations for EOG Resources, discuss engaging millennials for ESG solutions. Wellhead and sand filtration innovations will be the topic for Jake Feil, the CEO of SandPro, while Rob Lindberg, founder and CEO of Petrospects, will present on the TracFrac platform and how it optimizes simultaneous operations between exploration and production companies.
The “home grown innovations” panel is scheduled for Tuesday, May 11, and is one of six panels slotted for the afternoon. Other panels include a session for royalty owners and investors, as well as a panel featuring Lt. Governor Brent Sanford on value-added energy and innovation.
The Williston Basin Petroleum Conference is the largest conference and trade show in the nation focused on the Bakken, Three Forks and Williston Basin. The conference brings together some of leading experts on breakthrough technologies, energy markets, potential untapped formations, the regulatory environment, and more. This year's conference will feature more than 50 speakers and presenters. All sessions will be available both in-person and virtually.
Organizers of this year’s annual meeting of the Lignite Energy Council have announced the full agenda for the April 22 event and the previous evening's reception.
Mike Nasi has been tapped as the annual meeting keynote speaker, and well-known cowboy Trent Loos will highlight the reception. Nasi is a partner with Jackson Walker LLP where he practices environmental and energy law. He will provide a recap of what triggered the Texas power outages, the financial and policy implications and its potential impact on the national energy debate. Loos, host of the popular radio series “Loos Tales” heard by more than 3 million listeners on nearly 100 radio stations across America, will speak at the reception Wednesday evening, April 21.
Mac McLennan, President & CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative, will provide an update during the annual meeting on capturing carbon dioxide with Project Tundra. The CEO of UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center, Charles Gorecki, with talk about opportunities for carbon capture, utilization and storage in the region, particularly as it relates to the lignite industry. Attendees will also hear about the potential for extracting rare-earth elements from North Dakota lignite and the promise of value-added products.
The ND Petroleum Foundation is now accepting applications for the Al Golden Memorial Scholarship from students pursuing a career in the energy sector.
The scholarship fund was established in 2008 to support students pursuing work in geology, engineering, processing plant technology, science, technical skills or other careers related to the oil and gas industry. The scholarship is named after the North Dakota oil pioneer Al Golden, the first member of the North Dakota Petroleum Council’s Hall of Fame.
The ND Petroleum Foundation will award nine $2,000 scholarships each school year. Recipients receive $1,000 for the fall semester and $1,000 for the spring semester. The scholarship is open to full-time students who have a 3.0 GPA or higher.
Applicants must also have completed ONE of the following:
- At least six months of work and/or internship experience in the oil and gas industry.
- Completed at least 12 hours in geology, earth science, geological/petroleum engineering, chemistry, math, or safety.
- Clean energy program and carbon capture scrutinized -- Bismarck Tribune
- Neighbors disappointed by the sight of wind farm trash -- The Journal
- Pipeline construction sparks debate on Minnesota reservation -- Bismarck Tribune
- American Petroleum Institute makes proposal on climate -- Williston Herald
- Hess to reduce Bakken acreage in $312 million Enerplus deal -- World Oil
- Hoeven believes key oil/gas priorities possible despite Biden -- Williston Herald
- Sen. Hoeven hosts energy roundtable, optimistic of state’s future -- KFYR-TV
- Enbridge CEO confident of Line 3 completion by year end -- NGI
- ND legislators to raise their pay, still get no-cost health insurance -- Fargo Forum
- ND governor vetoes bill allowing December legislative votes -- Bismarck Tribune
- Bastiat members say they aren't extremists but principled Republicans -- Minot Daily News
- ND House rejects bill to create an annual short legislative session -- Prairie Public Radio
- State House funds rail, kills funds aimed at Hoeven’s bank -- Associated Press
- North Dakota Senate passes legislative redistricting bill -- Bismarck Tribune
- Deja vu as pore space takes the limelight in the Legislature -- Tioga Tribune
- Congressman Kelly Armstrong addresses North Dakota legislature -- KXMB-TV
- ND lawmakers sink bills to boost campaign finance transparency -- Dickinson Press
- ND legislature approves teacher spending study -- KFYR-TV
- ND House approves new teacher negotiation guidelines -- Prairie Public Radio
- Williston State enrollment down during pandemic, but hopeful to rebound -- KFYR-TV
- Both school superintendents, the Jordan brothers start vodcast -- KFYR-TV
- Learn more about candidates for Williston State College's new president -- Williston Herald
- North Dakota oilfield worker pens top-selling children's book that's pro-oil -- Rebel News
- State to get $14.6 million for COVID-19 vaccination efforts -- Associated Press
- Pandemic, oil downturn impact ND's 2020 taxable sales and purchases -- Bismarck Tribune
- Survey: Strong economic growth continues in the region -- Associated Press
- Wildfires rage amid record heat; Williston firefighters have close call -- Bismarck Tribune
- Severe drought leavea McKenzie County ranchers with difficult decisions -- KFYR-TV
- Department of Environmental Quality urges caution during smoky conditions -- Williston Herald
- Beacon, Hazen Star newspapers sold to NorDak Publishing -- Beulah Beacon
- NDDOT/Ward County study planned for southern corridor around Minot -- Minot Daily News
- China started more coal plants than the entire world retired in 2020 -- OilPrice.com
- E&P deals jump to $3.4 billion in first-quarter as shale consolidates -- Reuters
- EXPLAINER: Can Biden add energy jobs? Hope mixes with doubt -- Associated Press
- U.S. natgas output to rise, while demand falls for second year in 2021 -- Reuters
- Biden's Infrasture Bill: Green handouts for the politically connected -- IER
- Exxon sues Energy Transfer over charges from pipeline dispute -- Reuters
- Canadian pipelines sees natgas opportunities in shift to green energy -- Reuters
- U.S. E&Ps reining in capital expenditures by 8% this year -- NGI
- Climate activists launch attack on ag, petition EPA for hog, dairy restrictions -- Climate Realism
- Texas blackout costs rising, nearly 200 deaths, blame mounts -- Master Resource
- It takes big energy to back up too little wind and solar, increases cost -- Heartland Institute
- Update to Big Green database: the money fueling environmental activists -- IER
Factoid of the Week
More than 1,000 certificates, permits and approvals were granted for the Dakota Access Pipeline. DAPL held 559 meetings with community leaders, tribes, businesses, ag and civic organizations and elected officials, plus participated in 43 open houses, public meetings and regulatory hearings. In ND alone, 140 route adjustments were made to the pipeline to address concerns.
Valley City, Granville, Dickinson
Hydrid: Virtual & In-person
Dunn County Highway Shop - Halliday
Bismarck State College
April 9, 2021
WTI Crude: $59.32
Brent Crude: $62.95
Natural Gas: $2.53
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 15 (Up 2) 4/9/2020 -- 36 rigs