Energy | Prairie Public Broadcasting


The new federal Secretary of the Interior says it’s very important that industry, the federal government and the state government work together to make sure energy development in North Dakota is done well – and done with a sensitivity to environmental concerns.

Sally Jewell toured western North Dakota oil fields, as well as the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Oil patch activity in 'efficiency mode'

Aug 2, 2013

North Dakota's mineral resources director says activity in the oil patch has reached what he’s calling an “efficiency mode.”

“We have really settled in to a high rate of drilling in the basin," Lynn Helms told the Legislature's interim Government Finance Committee. "But it's no longer escalating at the straight upward trend. I think that's good news for the infrastructure of western North Dakota. It gives us an opportunity to catch up. It's good news for the department. It's good news for the industry.”

The director of the state Department of Transportation says DOT is having some trouble securing rights-of-way for highway projects in western North Dakota.

Grant Levi told a Legislative interim committee a good example of that is the proposed US Highway 85 truck reliever route in the Williston area, especially the intersection of US 85 and US 2.

"The cost of purchasing right-of-way is at numbers that I wouldn't have imagined in my career," said Levi. "At that location, we're spending about $165,000 an acre."

'Stripper well' part 2

Jul 30, 2013

03905 Stripper wells 2                                            7-30-13 ddt

About a third of North Dakota’s oil wells are considered to be “stripper wells” – that is, marginal wells.

Those wells continue to operate at lower tax rates.

The 2013 Legislature considered an overhaul of tax policy – that would have ended the stripper well exemption, in exchange for a lower tax rate on future wells. Lawmakers rejected the idea, but made a few tweaks to the law.

'Stripper well' part 1

Jul 29, 2013

The 2013 Legislature wrestled with the concept of “stripper wells” and “stripper well properties.”

Those are wells that pump relatively little oil – and companies get a reduction in oil taxes to keep them pumping. A bill was considered to end the stripper well exemption – and in return, lower the overall tax rate for new oil wells going forward. That failed.

In the first of a series, Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson defines “stripper well” – and the state’s tax policy concerning them.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission will be holding hearings into what costs for pollution control equipment to be installed at the Big Stone power plant in South Dakota will have to be borne by North Dakota customers.

Installing the equipment will cost more than $400 million. Otter Tail Power Company and Montana Dakota Utilities have an ownership stake in the plant.  Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says the new equipment will bring Big Stone in line with federal EPA regulations, as well as South Dakota’s State Improvement Plan for environmental haze.

Pollution control on MT plant could cost ND consumers

Jul 11, 2013

Pollution control equipment to be installed at a Montana power plant could mean higher electric rates for North Dakotans who are customers of Montana-Dakota Utilities.

MDU owns the Lewis and Clark coal plant in Montana. To meet EPA guidelines, MDU will have to spend nearly 28 million dollars to add pollution control equipment to the plant. And under the proposal, North Dakota customers will see their electric bills rise $1.40 a month.

Senator John Hoeven says President Obama is taking the wrong approach on energy.

The President wants the federal EPA to work to reduce emissions from existing and future coal fired power plants. Hoeven (R-ND) says the President’s plan is a classic over-reach.

"It's this big-government, big-regulation approach that is going to stop investment in energy development in this country," said Hoeven. He says he continues to push for a national comprehensive energy plan – that is a “states first” plan.

Two Dickinson-area electric utilities have entered into a “service area agreement” – as to which will serve the growth areas around Dickinson.

The two are Montana-Dakota Utilities Company – an investor-owned utility – and Roughrider Electric Cooperative.  Under the agreement – the two will divvy-up who serves what area where the city is expanding.

The Public Service Commission must approve the agreement. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak says the two should be commended for working out a deal.

Wind farm planned for Adams County

Jun 24, 2013

Developers of a proposed 150 megawatt wind farm near Hettinger, in Adams County, say they are hoping to go forward with it this year.

The Thunder Spirit Wind Farm would use up to 75 wind turbines. It would cost $300 million to build. Public Service Commission chairman Brian Kalk says Thunder Spirit had first applied for the wind farm last year.

"The original letter said they hoped to have construction completed by December 2012," said Kalk. "I would guess with the extension of the production tax credit, they will hope to have thinngs started by December 31st of this year."