Local Stories

A lightning strike earlier this week in western North Dakota’s oil patch led to a large spill at a saltwater disposal site.

Lightning struck the site Monday night near Grassy Butte, about 15 miles from where firefighters have spent the first half of the week battling a wildfire.

 

The lightning caused a separate fire that burned through 18 tanks, according to the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources.

 

Prepping for a new state cabinet agency

Jul 11, 2017
State Health Dept.

The State Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health is preparing to become its own separate agency.

The 2017 Legislature created the framework for a Department of Environmental Quality.

But before the Agency can be established, there's work to do.

"We need to give a submittal to the (federal) EPA," said Division director Dave Glatt. "We have to show EPA the organization is not going to change."

After that, Glatt said the Department will start getting name changes in uts administrative rules.

DHS

Some Legislators have raised questions about the Department of Human Services’ decision to end contracts with two Red River Valley organizations that provide recreational services for clients with developmental disabilities.

Red River Human Services Foundation of Fargo and Listen, Inc. from Grand Forks each had received two year contracts worth $75,000 each. But the two providers’ contracts were not renewed.

DHS director Chris Jones said in one section of the Department’s budget bill, DHS was told to find $650,000 in contract reductions.

Sorel named new NDDOT director

Jul 9, 2017

Gov. Doug Burgum has named former Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas Sorel as the head of North Dakota’s Department of Transportation.

He replaces Grant Levi, who retired in May.

Sorel is currently the chief operating officer of the Minnesota Trucking Association. In an interview, Sorel said he’s excited about the new job. He said he realizes there are challenges, especially in funding for road projects.

AGC-ND

This year’s road construction season in North Dakota is a little less busy that it has been during the oil boom years.

"With the one-time funding, the surge bills of previous sessions, those were record-setting times," said Association of General Contractors of North Dakota executive vice-president Russ Hanson. "With the slowdown in the economy, the Legislature simply couldn't afford to continue that."

Hanson said the budget for roads this year is around $470 million – down from the $600 to $800 million of the boom years.

North Dakota schedules three racing weekends

Jul 9, 2017

The North Dakota Horse Park will be hosting three weekends of horse racing beginning next Saturday.

And the park’s general manager is expecting a good season.

For the first time in years, horse races will be held on two Friday nights, July 21st and 28th.

Park general manager Mike Schmitz said he thinks the horse racing industry is alive and well in North Dakota.

"As an industry, we're putting more into te state's coffers than our appropriations," Schmitz said in an interview.

Schmitz also said NDSU has just finished an impact study on horse racing.

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday that he is directing his department to speed up permitting for oil and gas leases on public lands.

Zinke wants to make it easier and quicker for fossil fuel companies to drill on federal land.

"We’re not going to be an adversary to creating wealth and opportunity on some of our public lands," he said on a call with reporters.

Healthcare: Meetings and rally

Jul 7, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A day for health care discussions in Bismarck.

It ended with a rally in Bismarck's Custer Park. It was organized by the AFL-CIO and Indivisible Bismarck.

Those attending waived signs and chanted. The group wants the GOP healthcare bills scrapped.

"They are presenting America with an immoral choice," Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) told the rally. "They are bills that are telling us that we need the biggest tax break in the history of forever for the richest Americans, so we can take 22 million Americans off of health care."

Commerce dept.

North Dakota’s Commerce Commissioner said he welcomes the challenge to diversify North Dakota’s economy.

Jay Schuler has been at Commerce since January. He was appointed by Governor Burgum to take the reins after former Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson retired.

"My background is starting new businesses, adding value, being a disruptor," Schuler said in an interview. "That's what I want to continue."

Schuler said one of his main tasks is to keep college graduates in North Dakota.

ND Attorney General's office

It hasn’t yet been filed – but a potential legal dispute still looms over some of Governor Burgum’s line item vetoes following the 2017 Legislative Session.

The last time there was a legal clash between the two branches happened in 1977. It involved then-Lieutenant Governor Wayne Sanstead (D), and the power of the Lieutenant Governor to break ties in the Senate.

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News from NPR

A new Senate campaign ad for Rep. Mo Brooks uses audio from last month's shooting at a congressional baseball practice that left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., gravely wounded.

Brooks was among the congressmen practicing at the Alexandria, Va., baseball diamond and highlights the experience as he competes in the GOP Senate primary in Alabama, a traditionally conservative state.

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