Clean Coal, Rocks and Flour
Tuesday of this week, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) – challenged by North Dakota and many other power-producing states – had a day in court and I write this before the outcome is known. Last week, Minnkota Power and the Lignite Energy Council whisked me, some EERC people and a handful of other legislators key in ND energy issues to Houston, Texas for a two day tour. There were three basic looks at new technology that can make burning coal much more acceptable on display there: One is the Allam Cycle which will increase efficiency and capture nearly 100% of the CO2 – important to comply with the CPP. We toured the two acre test-scale facility of NET Power which is nearly completed. It will be interesting to see how it works next year. Our second tour was the Denbury Hasting’s Field where they are using CO2 captured from a coal plant which is piped to the oil field. They “flood” the oil area with CO2 which forces new oil to harvest. Read more
Petroleum, Pipelines, Protests, People
I am addicted to petroleum products and other fossil fuels. There, I said it. Take all of the petro products (plastics) out of your refrigerator or home, for that matter, and you have a different storage world – the one that existed a hundred years ago – so it can be done. Transportation without petroleum? We lived for untold millennia without it, but flying is pretty cool and I love being able to drive. Of course there are other technologies that someday can move our vehicles, but up North where we live it becomes even more problematic. And don’t forget that most of the electricity that might power those cars comes from coal, which is not exactly popular these days amongst our regulators and other powers that be. Heating your home without fossil fuels means you had better get busy with that chain saw – oops, it runs on gas… Hydro in relatively flat ND does not cut it. Natural gas? Still a fossil fuel. The solar and wind industries are the most promising for sustainability and cleanliness, but the storage problem is still there and until solved we are hooked on crude. Read more
Budget Fix: Earlier this month a special session of the Legislature approved Senate Bill 2379 which made changes in the previously approved two-year budget in order to meet the constitutionally required balanced budget. Here’s a brief summary.
- The legislation requires an additional 2.50 percent which when combined with earlier reductions (4.05 percent in February) authorizes a reduced two-year budget for all but two agencies by 6.55 percent, resulting in a $396 million reduction in general fund expenditures. In this area we have Mayville State and are close to both UND and NDSU which have had to make adjustments in their budgets to meet the change. Mayville State has made the necessary adjustments but with increased enrollment and long term planning, MSU will continue the excellence we have seen over the past few years. MSU’s original 2015-2017 two-year budget was $16,739,145. With the reduction of ($1,096,414) the new budget amount is $15,642,731. Read more
This month I spent a few days in Bismarck at our special session. We had to plug some holes made in our budget by declining revenues. The plan that passed included taking $100 million from our state bank. During the session, I spoke with the Eric Hardmeyer, president of our state-owned bank (the only one in the nation) and asked him how he felt about our grab. He said he was not at all troubled by it, which I found to be comforting. Former Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl termed it “robbing“ our state bank, but to me it seems hard to rob something when you own it in the first place. Lawmakers who have been around a while said they used to routinely take $60 million or so every session, but we had not needed to the past six years. The bank has over 7 billion in assets with hundreds of millions in profits. Another action was to order another 2.5% in across the board cuts. I do not like that – would prefer prioritizing needs. However, I guess it looks bad to squabble over what is most important and it takes time as well. So, while many wanted to vote for the package that Democrats proposed which would have taken about 10% out of a rainy day fund with about $330 million in it to help out Long Term Care facilities and their workers along with funding autism and behavioral (mental) health care, the Republican caucuses held their troops in line saying we will need the money for next session. Which is true, but instead of helping needy folks now, the money sits idle. Read more
Opioids, Drones and a Special Session.
Mayville State was the site of a Fentanyl/Opioid forum hosted (I believe, in the main, anyway) by our Traill County Health Unit led by Director Brenda along with Kelly and Chris. Well done! It was moderated by Hillsboro’s Dr. Chuck Breen and featured two local BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation who work under the ND Atty. General) agents, another doctor, a SE Human Services director, a recovering addict and our ND States Attorney Chris Meyers. These people brought a passion for their work and we all received an education worthy of the time taken to attend. I would say the main take-aways included the stunningly potent lethality of fentanyl which thereby renders street drugs even more dangerous than in the past as well as the availability of drugs in our small towns. Memorably stated was that the norm for using drugs is now intravenous, a fairly new phenomenon just within the past couple of years for our area. One panelist urged the audience to consider that our best immediate defense was once again to just say no. I wish that could fix it, but we all know better which is why the event was so well attended. Lastly, the cost of these drugs is driving our recent upsurge in property crimes. Read more
Stephanie Goetz moderated a great afternoon with panelists that included Sup. Ct. Justice Lisa Fair McEvers, ND DPI Supt. Kirsten Baesler, Thompson Mayor Karyn Hippen, NDSU/Community Vitality Director Lynette Flage, and business owner & advocate Jessica Lipsiea Arneson. Awesome job by all!
August 26th was the 96th Anniversary of the congressional certification of the 19th Amendment, providing women with the constitutional right to vote. The efforts and sacrifices of so many women – and men – were essential for this spectacular accomplishment.
As an individual that was influenced by the women’s movement of the sixties and seventies, I grew up feeling I’d missed the opportunity participate in something very special. It seemed the work had been finished, and all would be well for women going forward. To varying degrees this has been true, especially as it relates to education, business and entrepreneurship. Pay equality remains elusive in some cases, but there is real optimism in addressing disparities. Read more
August 8, 2016
Last week, ND Democrats put forth a proposal to address the states’ budget shortfalls while while minimizing additional cuts to people in need. After all, state supported agencies that care for our most vulnerable created their budgets based on what was promised in the 2015 legislative session. Leadership in the majority party criticized the Dems for not jumping on board with every element of their proposal. Read more
Report on three day International Legislator’s Forum – Senator Phil Murphy
A legislator died last week. He was Representative Hofstad from the Devil’s Lake area and I liked him as did most. We were to have been together in Denver the week before but he stayed behind to work on other issues and we both were on the roster for the International Legislator’s Forum which met this week. We missed Curt there. He had a big smile and was easy to talk to. Rest in peace. Read more
Mile High Legislative Report – Senator Murphy
Remember when Denver used to be called the Mile High City because of elevation? Last week I was sent by our state to participate in a conference on maternal and child health. North Dakota, like the other six states (Montana, SD, Minnesota, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado) and Samoa, sent health professionals and legislators to discuss and better understand how each delivers services to pregnant women, mothers and children. I learned a lot but got smoked by a blizzard of acronyms. Read more