granholm visits North Dakota

Energy Secretary Granholm listens as Sen. John Hoeven talks about North Dakota's all-of-the-above energy strategy and the importance of carbon capture.

The critical role of carbon capture, utilization and storage was a big topic of discussion during a recent visit by Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to North Dakota. During her visit, Granholm told state regulators the state’s carbon capture storage capability is “a gift” to the nation.

Granholm’s visit happened to coincide with a Department of Energy Announcement of $20 million to help certain states advance carbon capture and storage. The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center will get $5 million to support the EERC-led Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, or PCOR, which works to develop commercial-scale transportation and storage of carbon emissions that includes 13 states and four Canadian provinces.

Granholm was part of a panel discussion hosted by Gov. Doug Burgum and Sen. John Hoeven on the future of energy and how North Dakota’s all-of-the-above energy strategy is contributing to U.S. energy independence. Burgum again stressed the importance of innovation over regulation to Granholm.

“We can reach carbon neutrality in the state of North Dakota by 2030 without a single mandate, without any additional regulation. We can get there just through the innovation and the different geology that we have,” he said during the discussion.

Burgum also noted that since his May challenge to reach net neutral by 2030, the state has attracted interest and identified more than $25 billion in potential projects including carbon capture, hydrogen and biofuels.

“The amount of activity that’s driving toward how do we decarbonize our current fuels, and then how do we store carbon for the future and how do we diversify the fuel base – it’s really an incredible time,” the governor added. “We are excited to hear how the federal government is going to join the states, join the private sector, in investing in the technology to help us get to where we need (to be).”

Hoeven, meanwhile, said North Dakota is leading the way in carbon capture utilization and storage, and building out a model for the rest of the nation.

“EERC is a central part of these efforts as it works with partners across the region to implement these technologies in a commercially viable way for a variety of energy sources, including coal, ethanol and for enhanced oil recovery,” Hoeven said. “We worked to advance this funding to ensure PCOR can continue its good work in researching, testing and developing our state’s capacity for CO2 transportation and storage.”

Department of Trust Lands Commissioner resigning

North Dakota Department of Trust Lands Commissioner Jodi Smith has announced her resignation and will be taking a public sector position.

Department of Trust Lands manages the state’s permanent education trust funds and assets that are under the LandBoard’s control, which is set forth in the state’s constitution. The department also manages several funds and mineral acres in addition to the trust funds, as well as the states’s Unclaimed Property Division and the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.

Smith has served as trust lands commissioner since November 2017, and was reappointed to a second term in June. During her tenure, Department of Trust lands modernized technology, grew its managed assets by $3 billion and its managed oil and gas leases by more than 1,500. Administrative rules were also created during that time.

“We thank Commissioner Smith for her service to the State of North Dakota and the Department of Trust Lands over the past four years as the agency saw significant growth in assets and leases,” Land Board Chairman Gov. Doug Burgum said. “Jodi and the Trust Lands team oversaw multiple IT system upgrades related to financial management, unclaimed property and citizen-facing websites to better serve the public.”

The Land Board will appoint a new commissioner for the remainder of Smith’s four-year term, which ends June 30, 2025. Smith told the Williston Herald’s Energy Chaser she has been asked to stay on through the transition, to ensure everything goes smoothly.

The Land Board includes Burgum as chair, State Superintendent Kristen Baesler, State Treasurer Thomas Beadle, Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Attorney General Wayne Stehehjem. Their next meeting is Oct. 28.

Smith expressed gratitude for the opportunity to save as the state’s Trust Lands Commissioner.

“I will always remember my time as the leader of the Department of Trust Lands with great fondness,” she said. “The team working at the department is full of talent and fortitude. I am exceptionally proud of my team for their tireless dedication and I’m looking forward to my next steps in my own career after these significant accomplishments.”

Ogalala Sioux no longer helping with DAPL EIS

The Ogalala Sioux Tribe has said it will no longer help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the court-ordered Envirionmental Impact Statement that is being prepared for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The tribe, along with the chairmen of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes, have written a letter to the U.S. Army Corps calling for a complete halt to the process, saying it is “irredeemable” and “fatally flawed” because the contractor developing the review is biased in favor of the pipeline company.

The letter also asked that the Department of Interior be brought in as a co-equal cooperating agency, saying the Corps has “consistently demonstrated an institutional lack of sensitivity” for tribal concerns.

The EIS for Dakota Access is being done by ERM, which also conducted the Environmental Impact Statements for Keystone XL and TransCanada pipelines, the tribal chairman pointed out. ERM is also a member of the American Petroleum Institute, the latter of which filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of Energy Transfer during litigation opposing the Dakota Access easement 90 feet below Lake Oahe.

“Given ERM’s inherent bias it is no wonder that the draft EIS largely ignores the last five years of history and the thousands of pages of detailed technical and cultural material shared by the Tribes,” the chairmen of the Ogalala Sioux, Standing Rock, and Cheyenne River Sioux said in their letter. “Instead of a good faith examination of the critical issues of siting this pipeline in the Tribes’ treaty lands … this is an advocacy document that appears to be prepared by the proponent for a single purpose: to justify issuance of a new easement of the pipeline at its current location.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has typically used outside consultants to prepare Environmental Impact Statements. These consultants work under the oversight of the Corps, which is ultimately accountable for making sure the studies comply with all applicable laws, including NEPA.

EPA days away from new methane emission standards

The EPA is working on updating methane emission standards, after President Joe Biden signed a Senate resolution in June that reinstated Obama-era methane limits.

Independent oil producers have pushed for low-producing marginal wells to be regulated differently than those producing at higher volumes, and it is a particular point of contention with environmental groups, who say that marginal wells are contribute a substantial amount of methane collectively.

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