Members of the EmPower Commission, including Lieutenant Governor Brent Sanford, pose for a picture while on a tour this week of an EnerPlus drilling rig in McKenzie County.
Opposition to Coal Creek Sale Pointless
Efforts by the Minnesota Chapter of the Sierra Club to block the impending sale of Coal Creek Station make no sense, and Minnesota policy makers should understand that.
That's the view of McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson, who discussed the Coal Creek saga in a Plain Talk interview this week with Rob Port.
It was announced in March that Great River Energy, the current owner of Coal Creek Station, is now in exclusive negotiations with a single buyer to sell the plant and GRE’s high-voltage, direct current transmission system. Last year GRE announced plans to retire Coal Creek Station, a 1,151-megawatt coal-fired power plant near Underwood in the second half of 2022.
The Sierra Club has characterized the sale of Coal Creek as a bad deal for Minnesota, and is actively campaigning to stop the deal. Erickson said the Sierra Club's climate change activists need to know they've already won the argument because efforts to address carbon dioxide emissions have become a major focus of industry.
Click here to listen to Erickson's comments.
Erickson said the Sierra Club and other climate activists will jeopardize their political victory if they continue to promote only intermittent wind and solar energy, and push policies to shut down baseload plants, thereby threatening reliable electricity.
Click here to listen to Erickson's comments.
The Sierra Club's opposition to the plant in the name of climate change makes no sense, according to Erickson, because the prospective owners are expected to install technology to capture CO2 emissions. He expects GRE will help educate Minnesota politicians about future plans for the plant.
Click here to listen to Erickson's comments.
Erickson believes those who argue that coal is a dying industry are wrong, which he says is especially true for North Dakota's mine-mouth plants.
Click here to listen to Erickson's comments.
Erickson said it's important in the short term to understand the electric industry is in the midst of a transition period, and the coal plants need to be kept in operation to ensure grid reliability while carbon capture and other technology develops.
Click here to read an op-ed in the Fargo Forum speculating about the buyer of Coal Creek Station. Click here to listen to the full interview with Erickson.
Idea People Sought for Clean Energy Board
North Dakota policy leaders are hoping to attract idea people, decision makers and investors to serve on a newly-created Clean Sustainable Energy Authority.
Members of the ND Industrial Commission offered their thoughts on the type of talent they'd like to attract to serve on the authority which, like existing energy research councils, will report its recommendations to NDIC. The authority, to be composed of eight voting members and eight non-voting technical advisors, was established by HB 1452. It will be tasked with distributing possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and loans for projects aimed at reducing emissions.
Gov. Doug Burgum, who chairs NDIC, said he would prefer the authority not be comprised of energy executives and lobbyists.
Click here to listen to Burgum's comments.
Burgum would like to see members of the authority think outside the box, looking beyond traditional sources of energy.
Click here to listen to Burgum's comments.
Burgum suggested that private-sector companies that have partnered with the Energy and Environmental Research Center may have a good pool of talent from which to draw members. He emphasized that if the authority focuses too much on the status quo, it will not be successful in attracting investment to the state.
Click here to listen to Burgum's comments.
Burgum cited last week's announcement by Bakken Energy and Mitsubishi about starting a hydrogen industry in North Dakota as an example of the kinds of projects the authority could generate. In addition to the $25 million appropriated in the legislation that created the authority, the legislature also granted the authority a line of credit of up to $250 million from the Bank of North Dakota.
One of the authority's eight voting members will be appointed by the Western Dakota Energy Association.
Special Session to be held in November
A legislative redistricting committee comprised of 14 Republicans and two Democrats will meet later this year to redraw North Dakota’s legislative districts, a contentious process certain to generate a lot of partisan bickering.
The composition of the committee was approved this week by Legislative Management, which manages legislative business between session. Redistricting occurs every 10 years following the census, and is intended to rebalance the population of the state's 47 legislative districts. Based on the sizable population increase the past 10 years, new legislative districts will require about 16,200 residents. Western North Dakota stands to gain legislative representation based on population gains related to Bakken development.
The committee, to be chaired by Finley Rep. Bill Devlin, will likely begin meeting in late August after final 2020 census numbers are delivered. There was considerable interest in serving on the committee, with 95 of the state's 141 legislators requesting a spot. The 16 members were chosen based on recommendations from party leaders.
The committee's political imbalance reflects the current makeup of the legislature. House Republicans outnumber Democrats 80 to 13, while the Senate has 40 Republicans and just seven Democrats.
Bismarck Sen. Erin Oban and Fargo Rep. Josh Boschee will represent Democrats on the committee. In addition to Chairman Devlin, GOP members include West Fargo Rep. Austen Schauer, Minot Rep. Larry Bellew, Osnabrock Rep. David Monson, Montpelier Rep. Craig Headland and Bismarck Rep. Mike Nathe.
Grand Forks Senator Ray Holmberg will serve as vice-chair of the committee. Other senators are Williston Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, Bismarck Sen. Nicole Poolman, Lehr Sen. Robert Erbele, Fessenden Sen. Jerry Klein, Fargo Sen. Ron Sorvaag and Minot Sen. Randy Burckhard.
The redistricting process invariably requires several incumbents to face each other in districts that have lost population. New district boundaries would be effective with the June 2022 primary.
Committee Will Study Grid Reliability
Beulah Senator Jessica Bell was named this week to chair the interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee, one of 27 interim committees filled this week to study legislative issues between now and the 2023 legislative session.
Bell will be joined on the committee by fellow Senators Brad Bekkedahl from Williston and Dale Patten from Watford City. The panel's makeup also includes Mandan Rep. Todd Porter, who chairs the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. All others on the 12-member committee hail from the eastern side of the state.
Study responsibilities of the committee include several items contained in HB 1455, the original version of which would have required public hearings in the event of a planned coal plant closure. Language in the bill approved by the legislature provides for an assessment of the remaining useful life of coal conversion facilities, the role of the Public Service Commission in all electrical generation retirement, and the involvement of local communities in the retirement process. It will also evaluate the effectiveness of government programs and incentives relating to energy production and reliability, as well as studying the process for bonding and ensuring reclamation of coal conversion facilities.
The interim committee will also look into natural gas and propane infrastructure development in the state. It will include a look at the current infrastructure available for natural gas and propane, challenges related to infrastructure development, community needs for natural gas and propane, and a cost-benefit analysis of state incentives to encourage development.
Also on the committee's agenda will be a study of deductions for post-production costs under oil and gas leases. Among other things, it will look at methods used to calculate the value of oil and gas, the point of sale used to determine the value, deductions or incentives applied to the value, and the methods used to report any deductions or incentives on mineral royalty statements.
Funding and K-12 Policies on the Agenda
In a gesture of bipartisanship, Bismarck Democratic Senator Erin Oban will once again chair an interim legislative committee charged with studying K-12 education policy, while Mott Senator Don Schaible will serve as chair of a separate committee that will examine education funding.
Sen. Oban previously chaired the committee during the 2017-18 interim. The committees were named this week by Legislative Management, and traditionally are expected to complete their work and deliver a report by September 30 of the year preceding the next legislative session.
At the top of the list for the Education Policy Committee is a required study of competency-based learning and schools participating in innovative education programs. The study will examine the progress of school districts that have received waivers to participate in innovative education programs and incorporate competency-based learning initiatives. The committee will work to identify best practices, and whether the competency-based learning initiatives can be duplicated or expanded in other districts.
The Education Funding Committee has several topics on its agenda, including studying transition minimum reduction impacts to reorganized and consolidated school districts; an analysis of "high-cost students" due to special education needs, medical reasons, agency placements or other reasons; and an analysis of human resource needs in K-12 schools focusing on student academic health, behavioral health, and social and emotional health. The committee will also review student performance data relevant to those who participated in virtual learning during the pandemic.
Both committees may engage at some point in examining governance of the state's career and technical education programs. The legislature approved a study of state laws that provides powers of the State Board of Career and Technical Education, reciprocity with other states, cooperation with federal agencies, funding, reimbursement to institutions, gifts, reporting requirements, grants for innovation, elementary school entrepreneurship programs, career development certifications, career advisers, accessibility, impacts on students, and the impact of additional CTE student transportation costs.
Action Authorizes Oil, Gas & Coal Studies
The North Dakota Industrial Commission formally approved funding for two legislatively-authorized research projects that could lead to the development of new value-added energy industries in the state. In a separate action, the commission approved nearly $1 million in funding for three lignite research projects.
The 2021 Legislature appropriated $9.5 million for a pilot project to determine the feasibility of developing underground salt caverns in North Dakota, as well as $500,000 to identify the necessary components to support a hydrogen industry in the state. The salt cavern project will evaluate geologic formations for the development of caverns to be used for underground storage of natural gas and gas liquids. The hydrogen study, to be performed by the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), will produce a roadmap for the development of hydrogen energy that considers existing resources, methods of production and delivery, and potential end uses of hydrogen.
Among the three lignite projects the NDIC approved is the Williston Basin CORE-CM (carbon ore, rare earth and critical minerals) Initiative. EERC will lead a team of nearly 30 partners that will gather and assess the existing available data for rare earth elements, critical minerals and non-fuel carbon-based products. The state's $750,000 grant will complement a $1.5 million grant EERC received from the US Department of Energy. Private sector partners including BNI Energy, North American Coal Corporation, Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Minnkota Power Cooperative, bringing the total project budget to $2.45 million.
The second research project okayed by NDIC is an ammonia-based energy storage technology that could be used on lignite power plants to increase their operating efficiencies. Currently, coal-based power plants are often “following the wind,” which means they must adjust their fuel consumption to match electricity production from wind turbines. The proposed process would turn electricity, water and nitrogen into ammonia, which could either be sold commercially or used to make electricity using a fuel cell. NDIC will invest $101,390 in the $426,390 project. Project partners include Basin Electric, Minnkota Power and Otter Tail Power Company.
The third project focuses on the optimum amount of bottom ash that can be used in sustainable concrete infrastructure. The commission will fund $118,614 of the $289,271 project to test the hypothesis that there is an optimum content of bottom ash as a fine aggregate and cement replacement. The project was submitted by the Civil Engineering Department at the University of North Dakota and is scheduled to be completed in 15 months.
Some Want DAPL to be Shut Down
Nearly 90 percent of Americans believe the United States should reduce its reliance on foreign energy sources and nearly three-quarters support oil and natural gas transportation via pipeline, according to a recent nationwide poll commissioned by the GAIN Coalition.
This show of support for American energy and infrastructure includes the majority of Democrats polled, indicating bipartisan support for common sense energy and infrastructure policy.
"A majority of Americans recognize the critical role of the continued development of American energy resources and the importance of modern pipelines in safely and efficiently getting fuels to consumer markets," said GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens. "It is also clear that a majority of Americans support pipelines for oil and gas transport compared to the alternatives of train and truck, for their cost, environmental and safety benefits."
By a margin of more than 3-to-1, Americans believe pipelines are the best option to transport oil and gas compared to the alternatives of truck and train, both of which present additional risk, wear and tear on roads and communities, and produce higher levels of carbon dioxide emissions.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which transports up to 570,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude from North Dakota to Illinois, has withstood scrutiny and numerous legal challenges, but anti-energy extremists continue to call for its shutdown. Unfortunately, more than one third of Americans have been misguided into believing it should be shut down. Just 64 percent of respondents recognize the importance of and agree DAPL should continue serving American energy consumers. Support rises among North Dakota residents, with nearly 80 percent in favor of DAPL's continued operation.
"Most Americans agree that the Dakota Access Pipeline is a crucial component of our nation's energy infrastructure network, and is the best method of safely transporting Bakken crude to refineries and consumer markets," said Stevens. "Unfortunately, a small – but vocal – minority plays an outsized role in the discussion over the development and use of U.S. fossil fuels, making it all the more important that policymakers and regulators remain apolitical, focusing on the economics of the world in which we live.
Williston Innovation Academy Featured
IgniteND Presentations Available Online
School administrators and educators from throughout North Dakota took part this week in the fifth annual Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education
The event highlighted recent legislation intended to pave the way for personalized learning and innovative teaching practices. The opening day summit was followed by IgniteND, four days of presentations and workshops geared around new education methods that advance learning.
"The door is now wide open for school districts to advance efforts to create personalized learning and empower our youth to be career, college and life ready,” said Gov. Doug Burgum said.
Burgum highlighted several pieces of legislation enacted by the 2021 Legislature:
• SB 2196, the “Pathways to Graduation” bill, which gives students additional flexibility in meeting graduation requirements by reducing the hours they’re required to spend in a classroom.
• HB 1388 authorizes K-12 schools to develop virtual learning academies to personalize education and add flexibility to models of learning for students.
• HB 1478, dubbed the “learn everywhere” bill, allows graduation credits to be fulfilled through internships, apprenticeships, extracurriculars, clubs and other educational opportunities by demonstrating competencies in course standards.
Burgum also presented #InnovativeND Awards that included recognition for three western North Dakota educators. Camarilla Cummings, a teacher in the New Town School District, received the Frontline Innovation Award, and Dickinson State University President Steve Easton and Dickinson High School Principal Kevin Hoherz were recognized for System Transformation.
Video recordings of presentations from IgniteND have been posted online. Click here to see the list of links. Among them is a presentation from Williston School Superintendent Jeff Thake entitled "The School that Used to be a Pool," describing the district's conversion of an unused indoor swimming pool into an Innovation Academy. See story in August 9, 2019 WDEA newsletter.
Info on Pending Williams County Applications
The Western Dakota Energy Association will host an informational meeting to give the public an opportunity to learn more about two pending applications for the disposal of TENORM waste in Williams County.
The meeting, which will have no formal program, is scheduled June 16 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. at The ARC in Williston. Two companies -- Secure Energy and WISCO -- have submitted applications to the county for a conditional use permit to operate a landfill to dispose of TENORM (Technologically-Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material). The Williams County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold public hearings on the applications the following evening, June 17.
Both Secure and WISCO will have company representatives on hand at The ARC to explain their operational plans, as well as the safety and environmental measures they employ to protect the public. The Department of Environmental Quality will also be in attendance at the informational meeting to answer the public's questions about the solid waste permitting process, landfill construction and operation, and inspection and monitoring requirements.
Representatives from the Department of Mineral Resources and the ND Petroleum Council will also attend to share information about future drilling and production expectations, and the volume of TENORM likely to be generated as a result of industry processing operations. The low-level radioactive material in TENORM is found in nature, but is concentrated by industrial processes to a level that requires special handling and disposal. Most of the TENORM now produced in North Dakota is shipped to a landfill in Montana, but regulatory changes there have increased the urgency of finding an in-state disposal solution.
WDEA, along with the Vision West ND Consortium, will also have representatives at the June 16 meeting to answer questions, including details of a study prepared for WDEA about TENORM disposal options (see article in July 24, 2020 newsletter).
NDPC Partnering with Univ of Mary on Effort
The ND Petroleum Council is partnering with the University of Mary Workforce Development Department and Envision Partners to launch a Leadership and Management Certification Program.
The program provides rising and current leaders with a professional development experience. All nine courses in the program are complemented by executive coaching sessions for those choosing to complete the entire series. The classes will be delivered through distance learning via the Zoom platform. The University of Mary will award participants with a Leadership and Management Plaque upon successful completion of all courses. Participants can also pick and choose courses and take them a la carte.
The first class focuses on Environmental, Social & Governance Training, a hot topic for the fossil fuel industry, which is threatened by the inexplicable lack of investment in an essential resource. The second class involves the transition from peer to manager. Many companies want to reward their "rock star" employees through internal promotion, but there are pitfalls which the class will explore.
2021 Class Topics & Dates (all times CDT)
- Peer to Manager – June 15 or June 17: 1 -5 pm (4-hour training)
- Engaging Leader – June 23, 30, July 7, 14: 1– 5 pm (2-day training)
- Conflict Management – Aug 17 or 19: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
- Emerging Leader – Sept 1, 8, 15, 22: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Delegation – Sept 28 or 30: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
- Strategic Leader – Oct 6, 13, 20, 27: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Inclusion & Diversity – Nov 9, 23, 30, Dec 7: 1 – 5 pm (2-day training)
- Effective Workplace Communication – Dec 14 or 16: 1 – 5 pm (4-hour training)
For more information including cost of registration, click here.
Mowing on Shoulders to Start July 5
The ND Department of Transportation will begin mowing a seven-to-ten foot clearance along shoulders of state highways the week of July 5.
Adjacent landowners who plan to mow non-Interstate ditches for hay should cut the top before the state mows these areas. Private mowing is not allowed in medians of four-lane highways.
Mowing in urban area and portions of roadway with safety concerns may occur before July 5.
For more information, contact the respective NDDOT district office in your area:
• Bismarck District (701) 328-6950
• Dickinson District (701) 227-6500
• Minot District (701) 857-6925
• Williston District (701) 774-2700
Or click here to visit the NDDOT website for district information and map.
- Keystone XL pipeline nixed after Biden stands firm on permit -- Associated Press
- Lawmakers react to Keystone XL cancelation -- Williston Herald
- ND industry leaders react to Keystone pipeline termination -- KFYR-TV
- Fight over Canadian oil rages on after pipeline’s demise -- Associated Press
- Why are they celebrating the Keystone XL cancellation? -- Energy in Depth
- Judge blocks drilling plans in 2 states, citing bird habitat -- Associated Press
- North Dakota state revenues yield 'mixed bag' in pandemic -- Bismarck Tribune
- Police say nearly 250 arrested in Minnesota pipeline protest -- Associated Press
- Biden administration positioning to change a federal “water rule” -- KFYR-TV
- Hearing set for pipeline to store carbon dioxide from synfuels plant -- Bismarck Tribune
- Biosurfactant could be key to unlocking more oil from Bakken rocks -- Williston Herald
- Oil pipeline foes protest Enbridge’s Line 3 in Minnesota -- Associated Press
- Hess CEO: Shale's role in the world market is changing -- Williston Herald
- Gov. Mark Gordon allots $12M to oil, gas projects in Wyoming -- Associated Press
- NDIC okays two studies for 'value-added' energy development -- Prairie Public Radio
- North Dakota regulators say no to wind farm lighting extension request -- Bismarck Tribune
- District 7 board considers impasse before voting to keep negotiating with teachers -- Williston Herald
- 2020 breaks Bank of ND streak of records; total assets surpass $9B -- Bismarck Tribune
- $70 million set aside in state budget for Career and Technical Education -- Prairie Public Radio
- Several Capitol projects in works, including governor's residence kitchen -- Bismarck Tribune
- Rains improve Drought Monitor in portions of ND, north-central remains dry -- Minot Daily News
- New 'invest in North Dakota' program to launch soon -- Fargo Forum
- Dickinson tap water takes 3rd in international tasting contest -- KXMB-TV
- Applicants sought for North Dakota State Water Commission -- Bismarck Tribune
- Williston City Commission approves STAR Fund applications -- Williston Herald
- Hydrologist says ND in one of strongest droughts since 1988 -- KXMB-TV
- Tioga Ambulance Service receives statewide recognition -- Tioga Tribune
- Oil hits two-year highs on rising demand expectations -- Reuters
- Analysis: Market for U.S. oil acreage booms along with crude price recovery -- Reuters
- In 2020, natural gas exports and natural gas for electricity reached record highs -- EIA
- New Mexico's state budget gets a major boost from oil and gas revenues -- Energy in Depth
- Top US fund group backs sustainability disclosure rules -- Reuters
- Solar power's land grab hits a snag: Environmentalists -- Real Clear Energy
- Energy resiliency should be central to Biden’s decarbonization strategy -- Real Clear Energy
Factoid of the Week
Source: Keystone XL: About the Project
Bismarck State College
Eagle Ridge Golf Course and The Links of ND
Bismarck and Washburn
June 11, 2021
WTI Crude: $69.43
Brent Crude: $73.12
Natural Gas: $3.11
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 20 (Down 1) 6/11/2020 -- 12 rigs