The Little Missouri Campground in Dunn County is undoubtedly one of the most scenic spots in North Dakota. The access road is newly paved and camping spots have been improved.
EIS to be Completed in March 2022
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told a federal judge this week there is no reason to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline while its environmental review continues.
In a filing with the DC Circuit Court on Monday, Justice Department lawyers repeated previous statements that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents “have not met the applicable standard” for a court order that would halt the flow of crude oil in the pipeline. The statement puts the Biden administration on record in opposition to the tribe's unsupported claim that DAPL's operation poses safety and environmental threats.
The Corps said it expects to complete a court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in March of 2022. Federal Judge James Boasberg ruled that the 983-page environmental analysis (download it here) was inadequate because he deemed the project "controversial" under provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act. Over the next 10 months, the Corps will finish the EIS, which "rigorously explores and objectively evaluates reasonable alternatives." The agency said it is "committed to robust tribal consultations and to actively engaging with the cooperating agencies, which include several plaintiff tribes."
The filing said the EIS process examines factors that are relevant to the standard for issuing an injunction (shut down), but "to date the Corps is not aware of information that would cause it to evaluate the injunction factors differently" than its previous position. The pipeline has been operating without incident since June 2017. Standing Rock, represented by the extremist group Earthjustice, has alleged that DAPL threatens the tribe's water supply. However, the primary intake for the water system is near Mobridge, SD, roughly 70 miles downstream from the point where the pipeline crosses the Missouri River.
Click here to read the Corps' filing.
Slowdown is the Time to Build Infrastructure
Speaking to a gathering of county highway managers and oil industry employees, the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said communication between the parties is key to solving transportation issues in the oilpatch.
Ron Ness, in remarks to the Western Energy Roundtable in Halliday yesterday, said he's long-encouraged members of his association to get to know county personnel who take care of rural roads and bridges.
"The discussions in the back of the room, the getting to know each other, I've been preaching that to the guys in our companies for a decade or more," Ness said. "The best way to solve challenges and issues is to get to know the people who run the departments and run the equipment, and how we can help them and how they can help us."
Ness encouraged local government representatives at the roundtable to consider attending next week's Williston Basin Petroleum Conference (see story below) to meet more industry players and learn more about industry operations.
"We have got some of the best speakers in the country, we have the best experts in the state of North Dakota." Ness said. "We're going to talk about technology, about the future of oil and gas in this country."
Ness said more than 2,000 people have registered for the event, and the 250 exhibit spaces are sold out. He said it presents great business development and networking opportunities.
"The ability for all of you to come and sit and listen to the industry's top executives -- and with the executives along come the foremen, the supervisors and the engineers -- presents an opportunity for all of you to (get to know the industry better)."
Ness said he's pleased to see the industry's infrastructure development has made great strides in addressing gas capture.
"We are fairly well settled I would say, look at the data, look at the charts, we've got a lot of infrastructure being built," Ness said. "It was great to fly from Bismarck to Williston and look at the lack of flaring going on at night. Fantastic kudos to everybody."
Although much progress has been made, Ness believes there's more industry growth on the way, and the current slowdown in activity is a good time to think about building more infrastructure.
"Just like in the downturn of 2014-15, the Surge Bill (SB 2103) came along, and it was a great time to build infrastructure in western North Dakota, to build for the long run," Ness said. "We're going to flatline for a while, but I think what you're going to hear from the industry executives next week is that we're gonna cruise maybe for a decade ... but we're going to see this gradual increase up."
Weather Micronet Provides Bakken Coverage
Operators of weather station networks usually try to develop a mesonet, which amounts to a weather station every 15-20 miles, but the director of the ND Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN) says WDEA's Wise Roads project is actually a much more dense "micronet."
NDAWN Director Daryl Ritchison, speaking at this week's Western Energy Roundtable, said a micronet describes a weather network with stations every 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). Ritchison said stations installed as part of the Wise Roads project (Weather Information System to Effectively Reduce Oilfield Delays and Disruptions) aren't quite that close together, but he said there is now a weather station about every 10 miles in the core of the state's oil-producing region.
The idea for Wise Roads resulted from a similar roundtable in 2018, at which oil industry trucking representatives justifiably complained that county road restrictions following rain events covered more roads than necessary. Ritchison said he was approached by WDEA Executive Director Geoff Simon about placing more weather stations in the Bakken, and together they put the project together.
"The incredible thing is, Geoff and I really developed this with a phone call and a conversation over lunch," Ritchison said. "Geoff's a weather nerd and I had mentioned if we put more weather stations out there, we can fix all of your problems, and Geoff did the groundwork from there."
Ritchison said the scope of county road restrictions has been reduced thanks to Wise Roads. But he said incorporating the temperature, precipitation, wind speed data and high resolution images into transportation networks can solve even more of the industry's trucking concerns.
"In a perfect world five years from now, LoadPass will have weather information in it that will be able to route you around thunderstorms that dropped 2-to-3 inches of rain, to route you around to save those gravel roads," Ritchison said. "That's what's possible with programming. If I get the programmers, that technology is already there, we have the information. It's just getting that usefulness out to the public."
Ritchison said NDAWN is actually a "weather risk management tool," and it has been estimated it may save North Dakota as much as $100 million a year. He noted for example, that the City of Fargo "spent $5 million on a flood that never happened."
Ritchison said NDAWN will further expand with its involvement in the Upper Missouri Basin Snowfall and Soil Moisture Project. The network was recently awarded a $6.4 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers to install additional weather stations that will gather information about Plains snowpack.
"Western North Dakota now has more stations in a dense area than almost any place on Earth," Ritchison said.
Weather information from all Wise Roads stations can be found at wiseroadsnd.com.
Highway 85 Widening in the Works
Painted Canyon Renovation Planned
The director of the ND Department of Transportation described several projects planned for western North Dakota during an energy roundtable yesterday in Halliday.
DOT Director Bill Panos said among other things, the DOT's $1.6 billion budget for the 2021-23 biennium includes a loan guarantee to widen Highway 85 to four-lanes between Watford City and the LongX Bridge, and another project that will renovate the Painted Canyon visitor center on Interstate 94 between Belfield and Medora.
Panos opened his remarks to the county road managers and energy industry employees who attended the meeting by pointing out the importance of good transportation infrastructure to the state's economy.
"You can't have an energy economy without a good transportation system," he said. "You can't have an agricultural economy without a good transportation system. You can't have a tourist economy without a good transportation system."
Panos noted that a $680 million bonding bill (HB 1431) contains significant infrastructure funding, including $70 million for the DOT, split between roads and bridges to match federal money that the state secures for construction projects. DOT's budget (SB 2012) includes $50 million in borrowing authority to four-lane 10.3 miles of Highway 85 south of Watford City. The state is seeking a matching federal grant for the project, the total cost of which is estimated at just over $100 million. Panos said environmental work has been completed, and DOT is now doing engineering work and securing right of way for the project.
DOT was authorized by the legislature to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Department of Interior and Theodore Roosevelt National Park to jointly operate the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, he said. The facility located at Exit 132 on I-94 not only offers scenic views of the Badlands, it doubles as a rest area for travelers, and serves as a launching point for hiking trails, along with exhibits, displays, a gift shop and picnic shelters.
Panos said the legislature also provided up to $30 million in funding specifically for townships, and that law changes will allow DOT to provide greater assistance to townships when it is requested.
"We get calls from townships twice a week saying, 'Help, I need money, I need a fix, I need a bridge, I need a drainage system, something's going wrong with flooding, some road is washed out, we can't get to our town'" he said.
DOT's budget also includes $9.5 million for a Transportation Management Center, which Panos said will be "incredibly important to highway safety, the safety of our drivers, the movement of our trucks, and the management of our oversize, overweight issues." Panos said the TMC will collect data from remote sensing equipment on state highways and use computer technology to warn the traveling public of hazardous road or weather conditions. (see article in March 12 newsletter).
More than 70 Study Topics Proposed
Redistricting Among Those Required
North Dakota's Legislative Management team has a tough job in front of it when it meets on May 19, choosing interim study topics from among a list of 73 that were proposed in bills passed during the 2021 session.
It's tough to say if 73 is a record, but it's more studies than have been suggested the past several sessions. Legislative Council staff will prepare a summary of the suggestions and cite the legislation in which the study was proposed. Legislative Management narrowed the list from the 2019 Legislature down to 46 topics, so quite a few of the 2021 proposals could be on the chopping block.
There are 12 mandatory studies on the list, and the remainder are optional "shall consider" topics. The most obvious mandatory study is found in HB 1397, which sets up a redistricting committee to redraw legislative boundaries based on results of the 2020 Census. It will be up to Grand Forks Senator Ray Holmberg, who chairs Legislative Management, to appoint members of the redistricting committee, which will have an equal number of members from the House and Senate. Its redistricting plan is due no later than November 30.
Another mandatory study is a continuation of work from the last interim -- a Legacy Fund Earnings Committee. Its role remains the same, considering uses of earnings that include tax relief, infrastructure loans, reinvestment, research, workforce development, and career and technical education. As it did last interim, the committee will likely conduct hearings around the state.
Other mandatory study topics include access to public and private lands for hunting, trapping and fishing, a follow-up to the electronic posting measures contained in SB 2144; a study of the Public Employee Retirement System and conversion of new employees to a defined contribution plan which failed in SB 2046; and a review of competency-based learning and schools participating in innovative education programs that were authorized by the 2017 Legislature's passage of SB 2186. One other required study provided in SB 2282 will consider the membership of the state Land Board and the Industrial Commission, looking for possible conflicts of interest among elected officials serving on the boards.
The lengthy list of optional studies includes K-12 school funding, school construction grants, charitable gaming, the beef commission, fire insurance premiums, parks matching grant program, career and tech ed transportation, teacher reimbursement, juvenile justice, athletic event participation by the opposite sex, weapons at public gatherings, bonding and retirement of coal plants, licensing county corrections officers to carry, law enforcement and corrections officer recruitment, IT cost share of political subdivisions, property tax exemptions for grain storage facilities, water and drainage regulation, the national popular vote, long-term care insurance, a national ammunition shortage, and voting rights.
Click here for more information about Legislative Management.
Biden Wants 30% of Land Set Aside
County commissions in western North Dakota may soon be asked to support a resolution opposing the Biden administration's 30X30 plan, a conservation goal to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and coastal seas by 2030.
Biden claims the strategy is backed by scientists who argue that reaching a 30% set aside is critical to fighting climate change and to protecting the estimated one million species at risk of going extinct. But landowner groups and agricultural interests view the proposal as a "land grab," and have begun to organize opposition to the plan.
Outdoors advocate Scott Bachmeier pitched a sample resolution to the Slope County Commission this week. It states that the 30X30 set aside if implemented, "is likely to cause significant harm to the economy of (Slope) County, and injure the county’s businesses and its citizens by depriving them of access to public lands and national forest system lands and preventing the productive use of these lands’ resources."
Slope County Commissioner Scott Ouradnik said the commission took the proposed resolution under advisement, and will consider action at a future meeting.
Bachmeier said other western North Dakota counties will also be asked to consider adopting the resolution, which was developed by American Stewards of Liberty. Click here to see the group's fact sheet. Click here to read the draft resolution.
Over 2,000 Already Registered
Trade Show Features 250 Exhibits
The agenda for the 2021 Williston Basin Petroleum Conference features an impressive array of more than 70 speakers and presenters, each sharing insights on the latest issues impacting oil and natural gas development and what the future holds for the Williston Basin. More than 2,000 people have registered for the conference coming to Bismarck next week.
Along with the exciting agenda, WBPC features a trade show with more than 250 exhibiting companies. Click here to view the exhibit hall floorplan.
The conference, scheduled for May 11-13, is the largest conference in North Dakota with major networking opportunities for energy industry professionals.
The conference stage will include Bakken CEOs and experts on markets and industry outlooks, innovation and technology, geology and regulatory issues. Key speakers include:
- Mike Pompeo, former U.S. Secretary of State – “Value of American Energy to the World”
- Harold Hamm, Chairman of Continental Resources - "Oil & Gas Industry for the 22nd Century"
- Bob Phillips, CEO of Crestwood Midstream – "Building Gas Capture Infrastructure"
- Chris Kendall, CEO, Denbury Resources – "EOR at Cedar Hills in Bowman County"
- Dan Clark, VP of ConocoPhillips Great Plains Business Unit
- Kelcy Warren, Chairman of Energy Transfer LP
- Mike Sommers, President and CEO of API – "The State of American Energy"
- Wade Hutchings, Chief Operating Officer of Enerplus
Applications Now Being Accepted
The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation Scholarship Fund was established last year by local businesses and individuals to support graduating high school seniors living within the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.
The FBIR Scholarship Fund has a goal of awarding multiple annual scholarships of $1,000 each.
Fund supporters announced this week that they are now taking applications for the program. Applications must be completed online by June 20. Scholarships can be used for any formalized continuing education after high school.
Click here to view the available scholarships and all the requirements for the FBIR Scholarship Fund.
Click here to submit an application.
- North Dakota lawmakers throw lifelines to the coal industry -- Fargo Forum
- Groups sue over US program allowing pipelines on wetlands -- Associated Press
- Energy Transfer expects $2.4 billion boost from winter storm -- Reuters
- Feds call on lignite to answer U.S. shortage of critical minerals -- KXMB-TV
- Oasis Petroleum buying out Diamondback Energy's Bakken assets -- Williston Herald
- PSC irked: Lawmakers don't make rail inspection program permanent -- Fargo Forum
- Continental shifting back to its oil-heavy assets in the Bakken -- Williston Herald
- Company to proceed with SD uranium mining while permits on appeal -- Fargo Forum
- Marathon announces wind energy agreement for Dickinson -- Dickinson Press
- Oasis Petroleum anticipates more consolidation in Bakken oilfield -- Reuters
- North Dakota PSC approves MDU natural gas rate hike -- Bismarck Tribune
- Wyoming backs coal with $1.2 million threat to sue other states -- Associated Press
- Hess Corp. will require COVID vaccination for office workers -- Tioga Tribune
- In ways large and small, 2021 legislature touched North Dakotans -- Bismarck Tribune
- Erica Thunder appointed as ND Indian Affairs interim director -- Fargo Forum
- Numerous lignite coal and oil bills clear 2021 legislature -- Bismarck Tribune
- Legislature approved water governance change, creates new dept. -- Prairie Public Radio
- ND schools begin instituting Native American history into curriculum -- KFYR-TV
- Dept of Public Instruction to monitor 'ESSER' funding for local schools -- Prairie Public Radio
- Dickinson Public School District now offering permanent online academy -- KFYR-TV
- Williams County District 8 School Board votes to end distance learning -- KFYR-TV
- Divide County to vote on size of school board next week -- The Journal
- Mercer County Zoning Board dicusses road access for frack sand mine -- Beulah Beacon
- City and MSU Foundation agreement advances CTE plans -- Minot Daily News
- Klug announces re-election plans, highlights 2020 accomplishments -- Williston Herald
- Considerations underway for appointing county auditor over election -- Dickinson Press
- Planting in the dust, farmers plant seed in dry, parched fields -- McKenzie County Farmer
- Early census results are promising for Bakken oil patch communities -- Tioga Tribune
- Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce announces new executive director -- Dickinson Press
- Local Crosby businesses embracing online sales creating website shopping -- The Journal
- Oil nears $70 as easing Western lockdowns boost summer demand outlook -- Reuters
- Biden's dubious infrastructure jobs claims are wildly misleading -- IER
- Four key questions to answer in FERC's energy grid discussion -- Energy In Depth
- U.S. oil imports from OPEC are down, but Canadian imports remain high -- EIA
- Oil pipeline builder agrees to halt eminent domain lawsuits -- Associated Press
- U.S. proposes ending rule that weakened wild bird protections -- Associated Press
- BP proves natural gas/oil still reign as profits triple on prices -- NGI
- Canada’s banks and investors face dilemma in meeting emissions target -- Reuters
- China's emissions now exceed all the developed world's combined -- Bloomberg News
- Goldman Sachs: ‘Copper is the new oil.’ Will Minnesota be next North Dakota? -- American Experiment
Factoid of the Week
Source: DAPL Operations and Safety
Virtual and In-Person
Bismarck State College
May 7, 2021
WTI Crude: $64.90
Brent Crude: $68.28
Natural Gas: $2.96
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 16 (Up 1) 5/7/2020 -- 20 rigs