April 14, 2017

Funding for Oil-Impacted Communities Tied Up in Conference Committee

The North Dakota Senate voted on Tuesday to not concur with a House amendment to the ND Department of Trust Lands budget bill that reduce the amount of oil tax revenue returned to oil-impacted areas of western North Dakota.

Senators appointed to a conference committee were Rich Wardner from Dickinson, Senators Terry Wanzek and John Grabinger from Jamestown. House conferees are Appropriations Committee Chairman Jeff Delzer of Underwood, Vice-Chairman Keith Kempenich from Bowman, and Rep. Mike Brandenburg from Edgeley.

The contentious amendment attached to SB 2013 would cut funding to oil-impacted townships by two-thirds, as well as reduce the amount of money going to the Hub Cities of Dickinson, Minot and Williston. Read more details about the legislation here

ND Oil production back over million barrels a day

North Dakota oil production topped the one-million barrel-per-day mark, the third month since July that the mark has been reached, according to data released Thursday by the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources (DMR).

DMR Director Lynn Helms said this week oil price weakness is anticipated to last through the second quarter of 2017.

In his "Director's Cut," Helms said the drilling rig count increased one from January to February, then increased seven from February to March, and is currently up five from March to today. Operators are shifting from running the minimum number of rigs to incremental increases throughout 2017, as long as WTI oil price remains between $50/barrel and $60/barrel.

DMR Lynn Helms Director's Cut is here

Bakken Truck Traffic Up Sharply in February

February’s increase in oil production wasn’t really much of a surprise to operators of WDEA’s Uniform Truck Permit System.

The surge in production that once again pushed North Dakota above the one million barrel per day mark is reflected in the number of heavy truck permits issued by WDEA. Total permits issued in February jumped more than 40 percent from numbers in February 2016.  A total of 4,742 permits were issued for overweight trucks in February, nearly 1,400 more than the total issued in the same month last year.

The lion’s share of the permits, more than 1,600, were issued for trucks moving on McKenzie County roads, followed by 720 in Williams County, 669 in Mountrail County, and 568 permits in Dunn County.

Lots of Work Left for the ND Legislature

Today is Day 68 of the 80-day North Dakota legislative session, and if members are to meet the goal of saving a few days in the event budgetary emergencies arise, they’ll need to keep their nose to the grindstone.

Dozens of legislative issues remain unresolved and are being discussed in conference committees made up of three members each from the House and Senate.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, urged his colleagues during Thursday’s floor session to figure out how to get the job done.

Click here to listen to Rep. Carlson’s remarks.  

ND Senate Doesn’t Like Property Tax Caps

Legislation passed earlier this session by the ND House to impose a three percent cap on local property tax increases doesn’t sit well with members of the state Senate.

An amendment to House Bill 1361 passed by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee eliminated the tax caps, and would instead establish a more detailed accounting of property taxes levied by various taxing jurisdictions. The committee also added a local option to allow citizens to self-impose a tax cap, but that portion of the amendment was defeated on the Senate floor.

Senator Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, argued that imposing a 3% tax cap would be counterproductive because local taxing jurisdictions would likely levy amount every year.

Click here to listen to Sen. Laffen’s floor comments.

The House did not concur with the Senate changes, so the bill is now being discussed in a conference committee.

Governor Signs Distracted Driving Legislation

ND Governor Doug Burgum has signed into law a bill that tightens up the state’s ban on texting while driving. 

HB 1430, introduced by Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, makes it illegal to compose a text message while driving.  Rep. Mock said the state’s texting ban enacted in 2011 outlawed the act of sending a text message, but not the act of using a smart phone to type a text message.

Click here to listen to Rep. Mock’s explanation. 

Anyone cited for distracted driving in North Dakota will be subject to a fine of $100.  

Fire Alarm Gives ND Legislators Unexpected Recess

North Dakota legislators and state employees evacuated the Capitol Wednesday morning when a smoke alarm went off near the Senate chamber.

The crowd spent about 10 minutes outside in the chilly morning air while firefighters investigated the source of the smoke.  As it turned, it was coming from a food warming pan that had been plugged in, but hadn’t been filled with water so started to smoke.  The pan was to be used by the state Future of Farmers of America organization, which served lunch to legislators Wednesday. 

There was no word whether the person who plugged in the pan would be required to take a remedial course in kitchen safety. 

Williston airport dirt work begins Monday

The long-awaited start of Williston Basin International Airport will soon be underway in a more visible way as grading of the 1,500- acre site is slated to begin on Monday, April 17. Ultimately, 2.8 million cubic yards of dirt will be graded in preparation for construction the $250 million facility.

Full story is here.
Member’s Voice – Dunn County preparing for growth

Dunn County’s oil rig count continues to increase, now at 11 rigs.  The County’s Jobs Development Authority Director Carie Boster said that is one reason the county is planning on continued growth, especially in the commercial sector.  

A new health clinic with an expanded pharmacy is set to open in Killdeer.  Coal Country Health from Beulah is opening the satellite clinic. It is part of the Community Health Association of the Dakotas.

Boster said that recreation and tourism are growing in the county. The Little Missouri Recreation Area, north of Dunn Center is gearing up. 

Full story is here

Dickinson Press story on clinic is here.
Wind energy projects grow -- especially in the Southwest

U.S. wind developers have proposed investing $96 billion in new wind power plants over the next four years, according to an SNL Energy analysis of projects already in the planning stages. The largest share of forward-looking wind investment is located within the Southwest Power Pool, with $24 billion planned over the next four years.

See map and story here
Davis Refinery takes steps to further improve environmental impact

Meridian Energy Group, Inc. submitted an amendment to its air quality plans that indicate it will significantly improve the processes and emission levels.  

The process modifications were instituted to further lower regulated air emissions, ensuring the Davis Refinery qualifies to be permitted as a Synthetic Minor Source under both state and EPA regulatory thresholds. The amendment has allowed Meridian to achieve higher efficiencies and cost reductions, while even further improving emission controls.

Full story is here
Quick Connect
  • U.S. Shale investment on the upswing. Bloomberg

  • Williston City Administrator lists improvements in the city.  Williston Herald

  • Editorial: Our View: Empty promises from the Legislature. Williston Herald

  • Safety concerns as Alaska’s output slows from two-million barrels/day to 565,000 barrels/day. Bloomberg Report

  • Halliburton honored for National Guard support. Williston Herald

Upcoming Events

April 17
LTAP Webinar: 
Intelligent Work Zones

April 18-20
Lignite Council Annual Meeting
Bismarck Event Center

April 21
Teddy Roosevelt Mule Deer Foundation Banquet
Dickinson Astoria Hotel

April 30- May 7
U.S. Highway 85 Clean-Up week 

May 2-4 
Williston Basin Petroleum Conference Regina, SK, Canada

July 17-19, 2017
The Bakken Conference and Expo
Bismarck Event Center

Oil prices and rig count

April 14, 2017

                                                      WTI Crude: $53.18
                                                   Brent Crude: $55.89
                                                      Natural Gas: $3.23

              North Dakota  Active Drills: 51 (up 2)        4/14/16 -- 30 rigs

Geoff Simon
Editor/Executive Director

Mike Kopp, Editor
Mike Kopp, Mykuhls Photography, Photographs
Western Dakota Energy Association