A little known secret about Google Maps is that it contains photos of nearby attractions. This is the River Bend Overlook in TR Park northwest of Grassy Butte. (credit to William Won)
Glatt: "We're Gonna Sit This One Out"
The ND Department of Environmental Quality is finalizing the next phase of the state's implementation of the EPA Regional Haze Rule, and the good news for the coal industry is the plan will not include any new air quality regulations.
The rule is essentially a visibility standard, with a goal of restoring visibility to conditions that existed before industrial and vehicular pollution reduced the distance one can see. It requires states to make progress toward that goal over a period of years, finally achieving natural visibility by the year 2064. The rule applies to visibility in Class One areas, which in North Dakota include the north and south units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood Wilderness Area near Powers Lake.
During a meeting this week of DEQ's Environmental Review Advisory Council, DEQ Director Dave Glatt said the state has made progress toward improving visibility, and because it's ahead of schedule, the state's plan will not contain any new emission reduction requirements.
Click here to listen to Glatt's comments.
Glatt said most of the visibility issues in North Dakota are related to emissions from outside the state, so there isn't a lot that can be done to make improvements.
Click here to listen to Glatt's comments.
Glatt said most of the manmade haze in North Dakota comes from coal-fired power plants, and to some extent the oil and gas industry. But because the state is meeting the rule's compliance timeline, Glatt said DEQ is not planning to impose any new air quality regulations, a move he expects will not be well-received by the Biden administration's EPA.
Click here to listen to Glatt's comments.
Glatt said it doesn't make sense to impose new rules on the electric sector because the market is changing rapidly. But despite that reality, he expects there will be a legal challenge to the state's "sit this one out" strategy.
Click here to listen to Glatt's comments.
Once the draft plan is complete, it will be submitted to EPA Region 8, and comments will be solicited from federal land managers with the Park Service, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife, as well as neighboring states and North Dakota tribal interests. DEQ will incorporate any relevant feedback, and then seek additional comments from the general public. The agency will have the draft plan posted on its website.
Wants Time to Study Development Impacts
The Stark County Commission enacted a development moratorium on wind energy this week to give the county time to investigate potential effects if additional wind farms are permitted in the county.
The moratorium, which takes effect Monday, September 13, will be in force for nine months unless an extension is approved. The ordinance specifies that the development moratorium will be in place no more than 24 months.
Language in the moratorium states that it will address "the current uncertainties of wind energy development and its effect on the safety, health, standard of living, and economic impacts of wind turbines in Stark County." It adds that the moratorium will consider reasonable setbacks and other restrictions regarding wind energy which the county believes will benefit local citizens.
The county intends to gather "relevant information that shall lead to an educated and informed decision regarding wind energy development as it relates to potential impacts on Stark County’s conservation of its unique wildlife, health of its waterways, commitment to its agricultural way of life, standard of living, weather conditions and leisure activities." The document further notes that it will consider wind energy development's potential impact on the "development of its natural resources, conservation of its hunting game, and peace and enjoyment of its relatively rural environment."
Enactment of the moratorium will not affect previously submitted applications for conditional use permits for wind energy, including the proposal by Marathon Petroleum Corporation to install wind turbines at its refinery west of Dickinson. MPC has withdrawn its request to rezone a parcel of refinery property that would have allowed placement of wind turbines, but its application for a conditional use permit is still pending before the Stark County Planning and Zoning Commission. The company has indicated it would like time to investigate possible environmental impacts of the project before it requests consideration of its application.
Click here to read the moratorium.
Regulators Want More Info about Buyer
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission delayed approving the sale of Great River Energy's 436-mile direct current transmission line this week, citing the need for additional information about the company that plans to buy the DC line.
GRE wants to sell the power line to Nexus Line, a newly-created subsidiary of Rainbow Energy Marketing. The PUC's delay will also likely push back closing on the pending sale of Coal Creek Station to Rainbow. The DC line runs from Coal Creek to a point just outside the Twin Cities.
Minnesota regulators say they want assurance from Nexus that it has financial resources to operate the line or decommission it if it is ever abandoned. The Minnesota PUC must approve the transfer of ownership of the DC line, but does not have jurisdiction over the sale of the 1,151-megawatt power plant.
The vote to require Rainbow and Nexus to provide more information was 4-1. Regulators expressed confidence that the line will remain in operation for years to come, but want more information about the company that will own it. Rainbow has been in the electricity marketing business for more than 25 years, and has managed several power plants.
Environmental extremists who want to see the plant shut down argued that the process lacked transparency and opportunity for public comment. North Dakota political leaders have celebrated the pending sale as the savior of hundreds of jobs at the plant located between Underwood and Washburn. The plant employs 260 people, and about 500 work at the adjacent Falkirk Mine, which supplies lignite to the plant.
The PUC's decision to delay is expected to postpone the deal at least a couple months.
Corps Blamed for Allowing Illegal Camp
ND Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem plans to meet with lawyers from the Army Corps of Engineers and the US Justice Department next week to try to negotiate a settlement of the state's claim for reimbursement of law enforcement and other costs associated with the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.
North Dakota's lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers seeks more than $38 million in damages from the pipeline protests in 2016 and early 2017. Thousands of people, mostly out-of-state activists, set up camp on land controlled by the Corps along the Cannonball River south of Mandan. The Justice Department initially sought to dismiss the suit, but the government’s motion was rejected by District Judge Daniel Traynor.
The state's claim centers around the fact that the protest encampment was on public land controlled by the Corps of Engineers. Stenehjem, who filed the lawsuit against the Corps two years ago (see July 20, 2018 newsletter), said the claim is justified because the Corps allowed the sometimes violent protesters to camp without a required federal permit. At the time the suit was filed, Stenehjem said the Corps should be held liable for costs associated with protecting the people of North Dakota from anti-pipeline activists.
Click here to listen to Stenehjem's comments.
In its defense, the Corps argued that the protesters were allowed to stay to protect their right to Freedom of Speech.
The meeting Thursday will be the first sit-down meeting with state and federal lawyers to work out a settlement, according to Stenehjem, who said federal judges encouraged the negotiations. If a settlement is not reached, the case is scheduled to go to trial in May 2023.
Click here to read more in an Associated Press article by James McPherson.
Will Nearly Double Synfuels CO2 Capture
Basin Electric Power Cooperative and Dakota Gasification Company announced plans this week to expand the carbon capture, utilization and storage project at the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah.
The facility currently captures about two million tons of the plant’s carbon dioxide emissions, which are piped to Saskatchewan for use in enhanced oil recovery. The proposed project will enable the facility to capture up to 3.5 million tons of CO2 per year, making it the largest coal-based CCUS project using geologic storage, and also the first in the country to use both EOR and geologic storage.
The project is facilitated in part by legislation that granted ownership of the pore space to the owner of the overlying surface estate, as well as EPA approval of the state's regulatory primacy over Class 6 injection wells. Senator John Hoeven was on hand to participate in Basin's formal announcement.
“The Dakota Gasification Company was already an early leader in CCUS, and this proposed expansion is another milestone in our state’s efforts to crack the code on this critical energy technology – the largest coal-based carbon capture project to use geologic storage,” Hoeven said. “We’re able to make progress like this because we’ve been laying the groundwork for geologic storage of CO2 in North Dakota since 2008.”
Click here to read more about Basin's plans in the Bismarck Tribune.
Funds for CO2 Capture at Richardton
The US Department of Agriculture has granted a $25 million loan to Red Trail Energy LLC in Richardton to advance efforts for the ethanol plant to build a facility to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.
It's estimated the project will reduce emissions by 40-to-50 percent and further enable Red Trail Energy to access markets with low-carbon fuel standards. The grant award was announced this week by Senator John Hoeven, a senior member of the Senate Ag Committee.
“By leveraging carbon capture technology, Red Trail Energy is able to access new low-carbon fuel markets, leading to more ethanol production with improved environmental stewardship,” Hoeven said. “Today’s financing opportunity prioritizes energy production while reducing emissions and advances North Dakota ethanol distribution in new markets, securing better prices for farmers and ethanol producers.”Last year, Red Trail drilled a stratigraphic well designed with the intent to be permitted as a Class 6 injection well and used to sequester CO2 from the company’s ethanol plant. The project was able to move forward thanks to Hoeven’s assistance in securing approval of North Dakota’s regulatory primacy over Class 6 injection wells, which are used for geologic or long-term storage of CO2. North Dakota was the first state in the nation to gain the EPA's approval.
NDPC, GNDC, WDEA sign on to Letter
The American Petroleum Institute and 130 energy, manufacturing, business, and labor trade organizations across the natural gas and oil supply chain sent a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works opposing the inclusion of a fee on methane emissions as part of the budget reconciliation package.
The letter addressed to the committee's chairman Senator Thomas R. Carper (D-DE) and ranking member Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), warns that a methane fee “could jeopardize affordable and reliable energy with likely little reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.” Among the letter's signatories are the ND Petroleum Council, the Greater North Dakota Chamber and the Western Dakota Energy Association. In the letter, the trade groups led by API, voiced their collective concern.
"The undersigned organizations, on behalf of their diverse memberships and representing a substantial cross-section of the U.S. economy as producers, distributors, and users of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids, join together to oppose the Methane Emissions Reduction Act due to the adverse environmental and economic impacts it will likely cause and because methane emissions are already being mitigated via appropriate regulatory programs."
API notes that as a result of technology and efficiency measures, emissions relative to production in five of the seven largest producing basins were down nearly 70 percent between 2011 and 2019 and are expected to continue to trend downward. Click here to read the full letter.
ND Senator Kevin Cramer also sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging opposition to the methane fee. In a press release Cramer said, “If passed, these measures will lead to job loss and reduce funding for schools, parks, and other programs directly and indirectly funded by industry royalties and taxes. Most ironically, these proposals would increase global emissions by making us dependent on dirtier foreign sources of energy."
Town Hall Meeting to Talk Energy & Finance
Goldman Sachs CEO Took Part in the Discussion
ND Senator Kevin Cramer hosted Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon in Bismarck this week for the first installment of a new speaker series Cramer is calling “The Bully Pulpit.”
The plan behind the town hall style meetings is to host influential public and business leaders in North Dakota to hear from constituents and share their expertise in a format designed for constructive commentary and discussion. The event was held at the University of Mary and was attended by several dozen business and financial leaders.
Among those in the crowd who spoke during the meeting was ND Petroleum Council Ron Ness, who described the oil industry's current struggle to obtain capital for drilling and completion projects. Ness described the innovation occurring in the Bakken oilfields, from using natural gas to power the cloud, to re-using produced water. But as attractive as it is, he said the Bakken is under-capitalized, with currently less than half the investment required to reach its full potential. He urged Solomon and others in the banking industry to place a higher priority on investing in North Dakota's oil industry.
Click here to listen to Ness' comments.
Ness touted the state's plan to invest through the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority, which has $25 million to support grants, and $250 million to provide loans that will help commercialize innovative, clean energy solutions.
Cramer said future town halls will offer additional opportunities for North Dakotans to showcase their skills and potential. The senator met with Solomon in May to invite him to North Dakota and to discuss the financial industry, American energy and economic policy, and Cramer’s Fair Access to Banking Act, which would prevent financial service providers from discriminating against constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding, credit worthy businesses.
Sponsorships Available for Williston Event
Registration is now open for the Western Dakota Energy Association's annual meeting to be held October 13-14 at The ARC in Williston. Sponsorships and exhibit space are also available.
The in-person event will get underway at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon, and will begin with Lynn Helms, one of the event's favorite speakers. Helms, the director of the Department of Mineral Resources, will deliver his traditional county-by-county production forecast report at 1:15, following opening remarks by WDEA President Shannon Holter and a welcome message from Williams County Commission Chairman Steve Kemp.
The opening day will also feature presentations about the emerging hydrogen economy, updates regarding LoadPass Permits and the Wise Roads project, a panel discussion of transportation and truck permitting issues, and a status report on North Dakota's impending solutions to dispose of TENORM (technologically-enhanced, naturally-occurring radioactive material). Attendees of the evening social will be entertained by singer/songwriter Alma Cook, and hear an update on efforts to four-lane portions of Highway 85 from Cal Klewin, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association.
Day Two features a keynote address from Lt. Governor Brent Sanford during the noon luncheon. The day kicks off with a welcome message from Williston Mayor Howard Klug. The morning agenda includes presentations about a new national shale energy organization, coming changes in evolving electric markets, opportunities created by energy legislation passed in 2021, a report on development of the Bakken Area Skills Center, a panel discussion on education funding and other school-related issues, remarks from Williston State College President Bernell Hirning, and a report on interim legislative activity from Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner.
The wrap-up Thursday afternoon includes a review of oil and natural gas takeaway capacity from ND Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad, a report on the pending sale of Coal Creek Station, and concludes 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 after accepting a position in Idaho.
Event Set For Sept 21-23 in Watford City
The North Dakota Petroleum Council's annual meeting is fast approaching, and the association has a full agenda with more than 25 speakers and panelists of interest to petroleum operators in North Dakota.
The meeting is back in the heart of the Bakken in Watford City, a community heavily impacted by oil and gas production. Along with the busy agenda, NDPC's annual meeting features a chairman’s luncheon and annual awards ceremony to honor companies and individuals who have positively impacted the industry, including excellence in safety, community engagement, and environmental stewardship. NDPC will also induct a new member of the NDPC Hall of Fame, and bestow its Distinguished Industry Leader Award.
The meeting is scheduled for September 21-23 at the Rough Rider Center and includes plenty of opportunities to network with industry professionals and experience what Watford City has to offer.
Key speakers for the meeting include:
- Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke - "Energy, America, Freedom"
- Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation
- Daniel Brown, CEO of Oasis Petroleum - "Growing the Bakken"
- Todd Slawson, President of Slawson Industries
- Jason Roe, CEO of EcoVapor Recovery Systems - ZERO2 Venting and Flaring Reduction
- Brian Cebull, President & CEO of GTUIT – "Direct Fueling of Frac Fleets"
- Dewey Gerdom, VP Business Development for Grayson Mill Energy – "Grayson Mill Energy in the Bakken"
- Todd Steinwand, President and CEO of Bank of North Dakota
Meeting Set For September 29-30 in Bismarck
The Lignite Energy Council has announced the agenda for its fall conference, which features speakers and sessions focused on providing industry updates and information to its members.
Keynote speaker for the gathering will be noted author and energy expert Robert Bryce. Over the past three decades, his articles have appeared in numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, National Review, Field & Stream and the Austin Chronicle (see Bryce's WSJ opinion piece below in Quick Connect).
The conference will include an awards luncheon, CoalPAC breakfast, exhibitor booths for Lignite Energy Council member companies, and ample time to network with industry leaders.
It will be held September 29-30 at the Bismarck Event Center. The line-up of speakers will discuss topics that include:
- Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance
- The Regional Electric Grid and Reaching Carbon Neutral
- Importance of baseload power and teamwork
- Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage
- North Dakota Legislative Look-back and Clean Sustainable Energy Fund
- Mine & Plant Updates
- North Dakota officials: Well spill due to equipment failure -- Bismarck Tribune
- Feds offering workshop for coal communities funding -- Williston Herald
- Ideas for North Dakota's new legislative map discussed -- Associated Press
- Port: Renewables are making our power grids less reliable -- Fargo Forum
- House sub-districts eyed for tribal nations in ND redistricting -- Bismarck Tribune
- Speakers set for ND Petroleum Council annual meeting -- Bismarck Tribune
- Saltwater spills from Bowman County tank -- Bismarck Tribune
- Port: Democrats push a methane reg not tied to methane emissions -- Fargo Forum
- Study calls for strict limits on oil, coal to curb warming -- KX News
- Oil boom remakes North Dakota county with fastest growth in US -- Bismarck Tribune
- City of Williston to hold fall cleanup event September 25 -- Williston Herald
- City, park dispute remains unresolved in Tioga -- Tioga Tribune
- Minot Public Schools sets December 7 bond issue vote -- Minot Daily News
- More than 150 ND doctors implore schools to adopt mask requirements -- Williston Herald
- ND COVID-19 wastewater study indicates trend similar to 2020 -- Bismarck Tribune
- ND still reports teacher shortages, but not necessarily COVID related -- Prairie Public
- ND to consider suing Biden over vaccine mandate, Gov. Burgum says -- Dickinson Press
- Volunteers lose their locks to support the fight against childhood cancer -- Williston Herald
- Virtual job shadowing at DCHS gets initial Spirit Fund approval -- Crosby Journal
- Dickinson High Principal Kevin Hoherz discusses love of teaching, coaching -- US News
- MIX COLUMN: HS football returns to New England, ND -- ND High School Activities Assn.
- 2nd woman convicted of railroad track sabotage in Washington -- Bismarck Tribune
- In 2019, U.S. inflation-adjusted energy expenditures fell 5% -- EIA
- Digging into Biden administration's lease sale announcement -- Real Clear Energy
- U.S. offshore oil production losses felt around the globe -- Reuters
- U.S. natural gas consumption to decline through 2022, led by the electric sector -- EIA
- Soaring gasoline prices could cripple Biden’s energy agenda -- OilPrice.com
- Bryce: Get ready for blackouts, renewables are degrading grid reliability -- Wall Street Journal
- House Democrats set to advance offshore drilling ban in $31 billion bill -- EnergyNow.com
- Dakota Access Pipeline brings power to the people, a popular project -- Inside Sources
Factoid of the Week
Bismarck Event Center
via Microsoft Teams
Bismarck Event Center
Bismarck Event Center
The ARC - Williston
Bismarck Event Center
Ramkota Hotel - Bismarck
September 10, 2021
WTI Crude: $69.72
Brent Crude: $72.92
Natural Gas: $4.94
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 28 (Unchanged) 9/10/2020 -- 11 rigs