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Tribe Did Not Prove Irreparable Harm
A federal judge today issued an order rejecting the request of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for an injunction that would have shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline while an environmental review is conducted.
Judge James Boasberg, who had previously ruled the initial environmental analysis was inadequate thereby invalidating DAPL's easement to cross the Missouri River, issued a ruling today that the tribe had failed to demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable injury from the pipeline's continued operation. The judge's 31-page opinion expressed frustration with the Corps of Engineers' inaction, despite the fact that, as Boasberg put it, "the pipeline was ... an unlawful encroachment on federal land."
"Even though this Court vacated the easement for DAPL to cross beneath Lake Oahe, and even though the D.C. Circuit affirmed such vacatur, the pipeline has maintained operations as if none of these developments had occurred," Boasberg wrote. "Those seeking an explanation for the persistence of this surprising state of affairs over the past ten-odd months need look no further than the Defendant in this case: the Corps."
At a previous hearing on the tribe's request for the injunction, Boasberg was visibly annoyed by the Corps' reluctance to take a position on shutting down the pipeline. It's apparent from his ruling today the judge is still irked by the Corps' unwillingness to order that the flow of oil in the pipeline be stopped.
"Ever since this Court’s vacatur order in July 2020, and across two presidential administrations, the Corps has conspicuously declined to adopt a conclusive position regarding the pipeline’s continued operation, despite repeated prodding from this Court and the Court of Appeals to do so."
Boasberg's decision allows the pipeline to continue to operate because the tribe's arguments didn't pass the traditional four-factor test for a plaintiff: (1) that it has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that, considering the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.
Senator Kevin Cramer praised the ruling, noting that “once again, reason prevails over political pressure."
Click here to listen to Cramer's comments.
Cramer said Boasberg’s ruling is "a win for states’ rights, energy independence, and the American people’s pocketbooks.”
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said the tribe will continue to fight until justice prevails.
"In a nation of laws there is still no justice for Standing Rock," Faith said. "We are disappointed that the powers that be have failed in their proclaimed commitment to environmental justice and ensuring the sanctity of our resources, especially our water."
The Standing Rock Tribe has been represented in the litigation by the environmental extremist group Earthjustice. Despite the fact DAPL has been operating safely for nearly four years, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman issued a statement suggesting the line posed an environmental hazard.
“We believe the Dakota Access Pipeline is too dangerous to operate and should be shuttered while environmental and safety implications are studied, but despite our best efforts, today’s injunction was not granted," Hasselman said. "The unacceptable risk of an oil spill, impacts to tribal sovereignty and harm to drinking water supply must all be examined thoroughly in the months ahead as the U.S. Army Corps conducts its review of this pipeline.”
The Corps has indicated it expects to complete work on the Environmental Impact Statement by March 2022. Click here to read Boasberg's ruling.
PSC: Reliability Concerns Must Be Aired
Following a legislative session in which North Dakota utilities resisted bills aimed at holding them accountable for keeping the lights on, the Public Service Commission this week pressed regional transmission operators to speak up about growing concerns about grid reliability.
The PSC, which lobbied in support of grid reliability legislation this session, held a technical conference yesterday during which it quizzed representatives of the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which control the dispatch of electric generation that serves North Dakota consumers and businesses.
The 2021 ND Legislature approved a watered-down version of SB 2313, the original version of which would have required owners of nondispatchable (wind and solar) energy that it has "firming capacity" to meet the reliability standard provided in the bill. The PSC drafted provisions ultimately approved by the legislature that allow the commission to consider the "qualitative benefits" of generation assets, potentially assigning a higher value to natural gas or coal-fired power plants. The bill also includes a statement that "an electric public utility is responsible for ensuring reliable service."
The RTOs told the PSC they expect even more wind and solar facilities will be installed in the coming decade, and that more reliable baseload coal plants wiill be shut down. According to a story by Amy Sisk in the Bismarck Tribune, PSC Chair Julie Fedorchak urged the transmission operators to communicate to the public and policy makers how the intermittent power sources are making the grid more vulnerable to disruption.
“You are the only people who have that information and know it so if you aren’t saying anything, I think the assumption is that these plans can be accomplished and you’ll figure out how to do it,” Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak said. “That doesn’t mean that you in doing so are taking a political stance for or against anything. You are the engineers, you are the impartial system people who everyone is counting on to keep the system reliable.”
“We do need to step up, we do need to show some real leadership and determine and assess what are the minimum characteristics that are needed among the generation mix,” SPP Chief Operating Officer Lanny Nickell said. “So far we haven’t done that. So far, it’s entirely dependent on the market to provide generation.”
Nickell said SPP wouldn't go so far as to say which sources of generation should exist in the future, but it should identify the types of attributes the grid needs from the facilities that supply power to it.
Click here to read more about the PSC hearing in the Bismarck Tribune. Click here to read a story in the February 19 WDEA newsletter about the rolling blackout that hit North Dakota, and the legislature's effort to respond. Click here to read an op-ed by Rob Port on the "remarkable admission" that grid operators aren't speaking up about what the increasing penetration of renewables means for grid reliability.
Offers Alternative Oil Takeaway Route
The ND Public Service Commission approved a crude oil pipeline conversion project this week that can serve as an alternative route for North Dakota oil producers to deliver Bakken crude to market.
The Bridger Pipeline project originates near Johnson’s Corner in McKenzie County, and runs 29.4 miles southwest to Bridger’s Wilson Station located seven miles south of Watford City where it interconnects with Bridger’s existing crude oil transmission network. The projects consists of 2.4 miles of new pipeline and the conversion of an existing 27-mile gathering line. The $21 million, 8-inch pipeline project will be capable of transporting up to 50,000 barrels of oil per day to a Wyoming hub, which interconnects with other pipelines that would move the crude to refineries in the Midwest or Gulf Coast.
PSC Chair Julie Fedorchak noted that the pipeline runs through some rough terrain prone to landslides, but said she is comfortable that the company is familiar with potential hazards and is prepared to deal with them.
Click here to listen to Fedorchak's comments.
Fedorchak noted that Bridger will have a leak detection plan in place that continuously monitors flow and pressure within the pipeline. She said the project is a welcome addition to the state's crude oil takeaway capacity.
Click here to listen to Fedorchak's comments.
Bridger's North Dakota pipeline network connects to Guernsey, Wyoming, where other interconnections are capable of moving crude to refineries in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado along with trading centers in Cushing, Oklahoma and Patoka, Illinois.
Turbines to Power Renewable Refinery
Marathon Petroleum Corporation has announced plans to install five 2.3 megawatt wind turbines that will provide electricity to its renewable diesel facility near Dickinson.
MPC contracted with One Energy, which will own and operate the turbines. They are expected to generate more than 40 million kilowatt hours of energy each year, providing approximately 45% of the renewable diesel facility’s electricity needs. Marathon will pay a fixed price for the wind power delivered by One Energy for a period of 20 years.
MPC Executive Vice President of Refining Ray Brooks said the project is a win for lower-carbon fuels and company performance.
“Lowering the carbon intensity of the renewable fuels we produce at our Dickinson facility helps us to capture additional value in the markets we serve and enhance the overall sustainability of our operations," Brooks said.
Lowering the carbon intensity of renewable fuels produced at the Dickinson facility also aligns with MPC’s objective of reducing its companywide greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 30% below 2014 levels by 2030.
One Energy CEO Jereme Kent said the project will also contribute to MPC’s role as a good neighbor in Dickinson. He said his company intends to offer annual scholarship opportunities to students pursuing a technical career.
“For each turbine, One Energy will provide a $5,000 ‘Megawatt Scholarship’ to local high school graduates pursuing two- or four-year degrees in science, technology, engineering or math," Kent said. "That’s $25,000 for every year the turbines are operating.”
The wind-power installation at the Dickinson facility isn't Marathon's first venture in renewable power-generation. The company also installed a 6,000-panel solar array in its headquarters in Findlay, Ohio, in 2012. The company also powers dozens of pipeline components in remote areas with solar-powered units.
Click here for more details about the Dickinson refinery.
Grand Opening Held This Week
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held this week to open MHA Nation's new Interpretive Center, designed as a gathering place that will celebrate the history of the people who lived on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
MHA Chairman Mark Fox, Lt. Governor Brent Sanford, members of the tribal council and tribal elders were on hand for the grand opening. Chairman Fox, in remarks to the crowd, described the importance of the facility to the Three Affiliated Tribes.
Click here to listen to Fox's comments.
Lt. Governor Sanford noted how the MHA Tribal Business Council has made excellent use of resources they have in the area.
"You are such stewards of your land, your people, and now your resources," Sanford said. "I feel honored to be a partner with you helping to develop the resources, and this is the fruit of your labor."
Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests were provided a tour of the interpretive center. Along with interactive exhibits and artifacts, the center will also collect voices and stories with a recording booth open for public use. All of Wednesday’s opening ceremonies were streamed live and are available for viewing on the MHA Nation Interpretive Center Facebook page.
The Interpretive Center building houses 10 offices and large cultural displays along with interactive kiosks. It features a 250-seat event room and a state-of-the-art kitchen. A classroom is available for cultural educational classes on Native American traditions. The center also houses a coffee shop and gift shop. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It is located immediately north of the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge.
Permit System Updates on the Agenda
WDEA's LoadPass Advisory Committee will hold its spring meeting next week at the Morton County Highway Shop in Mandan.
LoadPass Permits is the truck permitting system operated by WDEA for North Dakota cities and counties to help highway managers monitor the movement of oversize trucks traveling on local roads. The advisory committee meeting will get underway at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, at the shop located at 2916 37th St NW in Mandan.
The committee is chaired by Mountrail County Commissioner Trudy Ruland. The agenda includes an update on the LoadPass map enhancement project; an update on new permits; a report on updates to the LoadPass notification system; a progress report on the axle weight conversion process; a discussion about permit approval times; and a report on available county road data. Election of advisory board officers is also on the agenda.
The meeting is open to all interested members representing local government or the trucking industry.
Click here to see the agenda.
Seasonal load restrictions were lifted on the majority of ND highways effective Wednesday. Some annual load restrictions, however, remain in the northwest region.
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.
Event to Recognize "Learning Reimagined"
The fifth annual Governor's Summit on Innovative Education, aimed at inspiring innovation and reimagining learning in schools across North Dakota, will be held June 7 at the Bismarck Event Center.
The summit will be followed June 8-11 with what is being billed as Ignite ND, a four-day program that offers educators an opportunity to discover creative solutions, network with experts from the field and "light a spark for future transformation."
This year’s summit will include an emphasis on computer science in K-12 classrooms, and a focus on accelerating learning as the education system recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The June 7 summit is free to attend. Click here to see the agenda or to register.
IgniteND is part of a cooperative effort focused on innovative education and inspiring a love of life-long learning. It represents a professional development opportunity featuring numerous hands-on workshops for educators at Bismarck State College. Registration is $99.00 for the four days, and the fee covers all meals, lodging in campus dorms (if requested) and evening opportunities. Click here for registration details. Click here to see the tentative agenda.
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.
"Click it or Ticket" Starts Next Week
Law enforcement agencies across the state will soon have extra patrols for summer H.E.A.T. (Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic) during the Click it or Ticket campaign from May 24 through June 6.
More people have died in motor vehicle crashes in warm weather months than cold weather months over the last five years, according to the ND Department of Transportation Safety Division. Failure to wear a seat belt results in more motor vehicle fatalities in North Dakota than any other factor. In 2020 in North Dakota, 42% of motor vehicle fatalities were not wearing their seat belts.
"You should always wear your seat belt when traveling, whether you’re the driver or a passenger because it’s your best defense in a vehicle crash," said Burleigh County Sheriff Kelly Leben. "When you wear your seat belt, you’re taking personal responsibility behind the wheel."
Preliminary crash fatalities in 2021 are trending higher than previous years with 30 fatalities as of May 16, making the campaign a vital part of the Vision Zero strategy to eliminate motor vehicle crash fatalities and serious injuries on North Dakota roads. H.E.A.T. will take place through August to encourage everyone to wear a seat belt, use appropriate child passenger safety seats, follow all posted speed limits, and drive sober and distraction-free.
Vision West Endowment Taking Applications
Applications for the next round of grants from the Vision West ND Foundation is now open.
The Foundation Committee has made $8,000 available to fund community or organization projects. In the last round, grant awards ranged from $1,000 to $1,500.
The deadline for submission is June 30.
The Vision West ND Foundation created the grant program to support the activities of the areas served by the consortium. There are two funds:
- A project-oriented non-endowed account established so funds can be easily accessed for projects and operations.
- A sustaining endowment established to use the interest earned to serve communities over the long term.
The mission is to award grants that contribute to the well-being of the communities within the Vision West ND region. All consortium members in good standing are eligible to apply.
Click here to view the community grants process and the grant criteria.
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)
- ESG – May 26, June 2, 16: 1- 5 pm (2-day training)
- 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
For more information including cost of registration, click here.
- Industry looking to lay framework for Burgum’s carbon neutral goal -- KFYR-TV
- Retroactive statute of limitations disputed in oil and gas royalties bill -- KXMB-TV
- Helms: Unfinished abandoned well project to start back up again -- KFYR-TV
- DAPL CEO comment isn't deterring ND's petrochemical dreams -- Williston Herald
- iPIPE incentivizes private industry to create smarter & safer pipelines -- KXMB-TV
- Security on ND energy's mind in wake of Colonial Pipeline attacks -- Williston Herald
- Colonial Pipeline confirms it paid $4.4M to hackers -- Associated Press
- Carbon storage offers hope for climate, cash for farmers -- Associated Press
- Internat'l Energy Agency: End new fossil fuel supply investments -- Associated Press
- Would Keystone XL’s oil compete with Bakken crude if built? -- Williston Herald
- 2021 Legislative Review Special: Governor Doug Burgum -- Prairie Public Radio
- ND Governor Doug Burgum is not ruling out third term run -- KFYR-TV
- North Dakota Supreme Court says crude oil royalty calculated at well -- Reuters
- 'Foundational pieces laid' for North Dakota Legacy Fund vision -- Bismarck Tribune
- North Dakota legislators will deal with 50 interim studies -- Prairie Public Radio
- Legislators say the recent session treated Minot well -- Minot Daily News
- BSC getting new lineman worker training facility with grant -- KFYR-TV
- 2021 Lignite Energy Council Teacher of the Year awards announced -- KXMB-TV
- School voters in Divide County pass measure to cut board seats -- The Journal
- Kenmare School District searching for new superintendent -- KFYR-TV
- April revenues: Good numbers for sales tax, motor vehicle excise tax -- Prairie Public Radio
- Many good jobs available throughout northwestern North Dakota -- KFYR-TV
- Residents to dream big for Williams County parks and recreation -- Williston Herald
- Bankers survey for parts of 10 states hits new record high -- Associated Press
- Walton couple purchases Medora-area ranch near presidential library site -- Bismarck Tribune
- Longtime North Dakota Game and Fish director stepping down -- Associated Press
- Parts of ND enter most dire drought rating on U.S. Drought Monitor -- Dickinson Press
- United Airlines to add third daily flight at XWA starting July 1 -- Williston Herald
- Opinion: Time to take a fresh look at neglected coal and nuclear power -- Inside Sources
- Shell shareholders increase pressure for further climate action -- Reuters
- Ford’s big bet: Fans of F-150 pickup will embrace electric -- Associated Press
- Climate litigation setback: SCOTUS rules in favor of energy companies -- Energy In Depth
- U.S. shale oil output to climb for first time in 3 months in June -- Reuters
- Natural gas combined-cycle plant use varies by region and age -- EIA
- Energy experts to Biden: You can't go green without getting serious about mining -- Inside Sources
- Another Solyndra? Biden has not learned from obama's policy failures -- IER
Factoid of the Week
Source: American Petroleum Institute
Virtual and In-Person
Bismarck State College
Eagle Ridge Golf Course and The Links of ND
May 21, 2021
WTI Crude: $63.58
Brent Crude: $66.44
Natural Gas: $2.91
North Dakota Active Oil Rigs: 20 (Up 2) 5/21/2020 -- 14 rigs