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Senator David S. Rust: Legislative Update

Article by Senator David S. Rust,

It’s been a busy week.  Tuesday, January 23 I attended Governor Burgum’s State of the State on the campus of Minot State University.  He started by informing us that the state of ND has “unlimited promise and potential.”

In a well presented dialogue that resembled Steve Jobs introducing an Apple product, he walked through the events of the past year to the challenges of today and ended with the pillars of the future.  His motto is:  Empower people, Improve lives, Inspire success.

Here are a few interesting facts he gave:

  • Ten million pounds of debris needed to be cleaned up as a result of the DAPL protests.
  • We’ve gone from 138,000 barrels of oil per day to 1,194,000 in 10 years.
  • The Legacy Fund is growing; we now have more than $5 billion in that fund.
  • The state of ND experiences 7.3 million cyber attacks a month on its digital systems.

I’ve been assigned to three interim committees.  Two of them met this week.  The Energy Development and Transmission Committee met Wednesday, January 24 at the Capitol.  We learned that local energy companies such as MDU and Mountrail Williams Electric are members of service provider pools which buy power from them and sell power to them, depending on their need.  It’s too complicated to put the details in this article.  Those service providers (MISO and the Southwest Power Pool) provide some risk management, resilience, and reliability to our electrical grid.

Seven power companies, including MDU and MWEC, told us how they managed to “keep the lights on” during the extreme cold weather we’ve been experiencing.  All of them had some problems.  Some with coal boilers shutting down.  Some with wind generators failing due to the cold temperatures; evidently they are susceptible to that when the temps fall below minus 20 degrees.  However, all of the companies managed the extreme temperatures without any interruptions of power.  We’ve come to expect that, but it’s pretty phenomenal.

Senator David S. Rust

Senator David S. Rust

Our last presentation was an overview of operations from Tradewind Energy, Inc.  They built the Lindahl Wind Farm Project north of Tioga.

The most important take-away I got from the presentations was:  Since these power pools are multi-state operations, one state trying to place restrictions, regulations, and taxes on one form of energy to help another form of energy really doesn’t accomplish much.  For example, if we were to tax wind to prop up coal, those wind farms would simply be built in another state and there would not be any impact to wind.  The state of ND and the local landowners would lose out on revenue, but the energy companies would not.

The Education Funding Interim Committee met Thursday, January 25.  The DPI gave us information on student enrollments, the cost of funding elementary and secondary education, special education costs and trends, and “in lieu of” revenue.

Most school districts get dollars “in lieu of property taxes.”  For example, instead of oil and gas being assessed as property tax, schools receive “in lieu of” payments based on the number of barrels of oil and the mcf of natural gas produced.  The school funding formula takes this revenue into account for equity purposes, and 75% of it is subtracted from our state payment.

I think that subtraction is unfair.  I’d like to see it changed.  Schools in our area agree.  Two proposals were presented to the committee for discussion.  I was pleased to have a significant part in formulating one of the proposals.  The committee will consider both proposals and possibly others.  The down side is that all of them will cost the state money, so it may be an uphill battle to get one of them passed.

It’s always a pleasure to represent and advocate for District 2.  Feel free to contact me at drust@nd.gov or 701-216-0270.

*This article was written by District 2 Senator David S. Rust.


*Ian Grande is the Editor of the Stanley Gazette. Feel free to reach out with any comments/concerns (StanleyGazette@gmail.com)

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