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North Dakota lawmakers busy with energy-related proposals

North Dakota lawmakers busy with energy-related proposals

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Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station.

Lawmakers during the first half of the legislative session pitched many ideas to their colleagues for shaping North Dakota’s oil, coal and wind industries.

Energy-related bills that cleared either the House or Senate will move to the other chamber for further consideration now that the Legislature has reached the halfway point.

A number of bills are geared toward helping the coal industry, which has struggled to compete with an influx of cheap natural gas and renewable power.

House Bill 1412, for one, would temporarily exempt coal-fired power plants from paying a conversion tax to the state. It now moves to the Senate.

Another measure, House Bill 1452, would establish the Clean Sustainable Energy Authority. The latest iteration of the proposal would funnel $40 million over the next two years to support the research and development of technologies that reduce environmental impacts from energy production. The money could go toward the fossil fuel or renewable industries.

Senate Bill 2313 sought to require that operators of wind or solar farms secure a certain amount of electricity from sources such as coal or natural gas to back up their facilities’ power output. Senators amended it significantly to require only that the head of the North Dakota Transmission Authority provide an annual report about the resilience of the power grid.

Although its sponsor eventually withdrew the measure, House Bill 1458 would have added a new tax on wind farms and tasked the North Dakota Public Service Commission with distributing the revenue collected to coal plants in the form of grants.

Several bills are advancing concerning the Board of University and School Lands, which manages state-owned land and mineral acres.

Two related measures, Senate Bill 2282 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 4007, would add the agriculture commissioner to the five-member board if voters approve the proposal.

House Bill 1080 addresses unpaid oil and gas royalties the Land Board has sought to collect from companies following a favorable 2019 North Dakota Supreme Court Decision. The board and oil industry reached a compromise on the matter that would cap the rate of interest and penalties a company must pay at 15%, but lawmakers need to approve.

On a related note, private mineral owners are pushing for an end to the practice by some oil and gas companies of taking deductions out of royalties to account for costs associated with transportation and processing. The original version of Senate Bill 2217 would have prohibited those deductions in most cases, but it was changed significantly on the Senate floor following an agreement between bill supporters and the oil industry.

Another bill concerning oil money is Senate Bill 2319, which would ensure that the Three Affiliated Tribes can collect taxes on oil produced from wells that begin off the reservation but extend horizontally underground across the border. Tax revenue from those wells now goes entirely to the state. The bill passed the Senate, though several amendments add conditions and push back the date the bill would take effect by two years.

Senate Bill 2065 would give the North Dakota Industrial Commission authority to permit the underground storage of natural gas, natural gas liquids and oil. The latest version of the bill that will be considered by the House spells out in greater detail the process and criteria the state would use to evaluate permit applications. Landowners have some concerns about the new language.

Several bills that passed the Senate focus on federal environmental regulations as President Joe Biden assumes office and begins to implement an agenda aimed at curbing climate change while cracking down on the fossil fuel industry.

Senate Bill 2237 would clarify that North Dakota cannot adopt air quality regulations for coal-fired power plants that are more stringent than federal rules, and Senate Bill 2238 spells out how the state should comply with federal haze requirements.

Several proposals brought to lawmakers by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality are advancing, including Senate Bill 2070, which would divert money toward environmental cleanup projects.

Another, House Bill 1079, would strengthen a law surrounding contaminated land to ensure conditions put in place to protect public health stay if the site is transferred to a new other.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or


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