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Budget Section OKs $16 million in CARES money for fracking

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The Legislature’s Budget Section has okayed the repurposing of $16 million in CARES Act funding from a program to reclaim oil wells to paying for fracking crews.

The original budget was $66 million for the reclamation project.

State mineral resources director Lynn Helms told the Budget Section the plan was to frack up to 80 wells. And he said that could keep people employed in the oil industry in the Bakken.

"Both of the companies that would perfom this hydraulic fracture work have laid off most of their employees," Helms said. "In fact, we're going backwords on hydraulic fracture crews at this point in time."

But Helms said those who were laid off are still in the region.

"Many of them are delivering diesel fuel for a local fuel supplier, or hauling water or something like that," Helms said.

Helms said this will support hundreds of jobs in western North Dakota. And he said in addition, the completed wells mean more oil tax money coming to the state treasury.

"In the absence of this program, we're going to see 500 to 1200 people remain on unemployment," Helms said. "We're going to see production drop. And we are not going to have stable state revenues."

Democratic members tried to get the Budget Section to reject that spending, to send it back to the state Emergency Commission for re-allocation to other needs. The motion to do that failed.

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