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
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
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
This was the first time in my six years as a Senator that none of my interim committees met for two months. It freed me up to visit several city council meetings and attend other events which I feel help keep me up to date. One of those cities I visited was Emerado for an informal citizen’s meeting. We in District 20 are host to the site of the Grand Sky Initiative which is located on the western side of the Grand Forks Air Force Base. As you can imagine, Emerado, situated across Highway 2 from the AFB, has hopes of capitalizing on this buildup of private jobs. Houses are in very short supply as witnessed by the fact that some of their law enforcement personnel have been looking for appropriate shelter in town for some time. They have a solution to a problem that many of our District 20 towns have had in common; lack of growth. But now they have other problems, with housing at the head of them followed closely by school bond issues to pass and child care amongst others. Read more
The Old-timers have been telling me for six years that it is easier to go into a session when there is no money than when in abundance because everyone understands when they are told no. So far you can color me dubious on that score. Listening to people who want and need their bridge and telling them no is not easy. Hearing from folks who are losing help from their County Social Services is far less than easy or comfortable. Some of the programs that we worked hard to fund the last couple of sessions are losing out. Examples released from the Dept. of Human Services include; Adjust funding for Quality Child Care contract, $1,700,000. Also, with a critical child care shortage statewide, Adjust Eligibility for Child Care Assistance Program and cost sharing, $5,031,605. In regards to not providing the second year of 3% Provider inflation, the following are scheduled to take hits; Traditional Medicaid – $3,206,587, Developmental Disability -$4,047,111, Long Term Care – $846,536, Nursing Home Providers -$1,197,156. Read more
It’s that time! The District 20 Convention is right around the corner. We would love to see you there… bring family and friends, share questions and concerns – and share a little “Dem” fellowship!