Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

I recently read an article regarding oil money for the people of the state of North Dakota. I live in Hannaford, N.D., and even though it is a town of about 130 people, we live on a very popular BNSF rail line. A 110-car train comes through this town every 45 minutes or so.

With the increase of oil production in the western half of the state, trains carrying 100 cars of petroleum have become a regular sight to see since the boom. Even though we are on the eastern side of North Dakota, is there any way our fire department could get money to improve our trucks or equipment?

Thanks,

Marc Haaland

Hannaford

Thanks for writing! I went two routes with providing an answer. The first has to do with the state’s energy impact grants (which I think are what you’re inquiring about) and then what other help may be available.

It’s true the state Land Board has provided money to help fire departments impacted by the rapid growth that has come along with oil activity. However, energy impact grants have been limited to the 17 oil- and gas-producing counties in western North Dakota.

The biggest reasons for this are: these counties are seeing the greatest impacts of the oil activity, there is limited funding available and most of the money for these grants came from within these counties in the first place.

Here’s the back story:

State law directs oil and gas impact grants to be provided to cities, counties, townships, school districts and other taxing districts impacted by energy development and production, said Lance Gaebe, director of the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office.

Applications from North Dakota counties with active drilling rigs and oil and gas production receive primary consideration for funding, he said.

The majority of the money for this grant program comes from a tax that oil companies operating in these counties have to pay to the state.

The Legislature agreed to set aside $100 million of this tax revenue to help oil counties with energy impacts. Legislators later approved another $35 million in general fund money after seeing the need for more funding.

Although $135 million is a relatively big chunk of money, state officials get requests from the 17 oil counties for millions and millions of more dollars than are available. (As a side note, just a few years ago, there was $8 million available for this program until western North Dakota convinced the Legislature it wasn’t enough.)

Earlier this year, the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office received requests for $40.4 million in grants during the emergency services funding round, which included fire departments. Granted, not all of these requests met the emergency services criteria, but most did.

The Land Board ended up approving $12 million in grants to benefit emergency services, with $7.45 million specifically benefitting fire departments and joint law enforcement/fire/ambulance projects.

Gaebe said an additional $4 million will be awarded to emergency response services starting this fall. The remaining energy impact money primarily goes to help with infrastructure needs, especially within the oil cities to support housing growth.

Gaebe said state officials consider the following when awarding grants: how much the need is a result of direct oil and gas development; readiness of the project for implementation; health, welfare and safety considerations; and financial need.

Those who do get a grant still have to come up with a portion of the cost of the project.

Since this program isn’t of immediate help for your area, I also contacted North Dakota Firefighter’s Association Executive Director Renee Loh. Here’s what she said:

“There are programs for grant requests. However, fire departments across the nation are having the same issues, leading to a probable reduction in the chances of receiving grant awards.

“Some of the grants that are available in North Dakota are: Assistance to Firefighter Grant, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, volunteer fire department grants through the North Dakota Forest Service, private grants such as WSI’s ergonomic grant, Department of Emergency Services grants and, of course, the tremendous energy impact grants.

“The Firefighter’s Association sends out immediate information on any possible funding sources. It is worthy to report that many more fire departments have sent in requests recently and, when they call for advice in filling out the forms, we assist them with understanding how to respond to the grant application and what the peer reviewers will be looking for in the grant request. 

“When I received your email, the first thought was, ‘This question posed to you could have been written by any fire department in North Dakota.’  The dynamics have changed across North Dakota’s landscape and, in some ways, each fire department in North Dakota has been touched. 

“There are chemicals that are being trucked, railed and transported throughout the state that have brought the fire departments to a greater level of incident responsibility. And the difficulty is that the fire departments are not as prepared, and they would like to be, but they do not have the financial resources. 

“It is vital that the fire departments receive support so that there are an increased number of trained, frontline firefighters that are available to respond in the North Dakota communities.  With continued state growth, the incidents will continue to grow.”

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

I have heard that the city of New York, and I am assuming other areas as well, have pricing regulations on real estate property, such as rent or housing. Am I correct in this? If so, what is preventing some pricing controls from taking effect in the Oil Patch counties? Thank you. Sincerely,

Craig Kappel

Dickinson

Thanks for writing! I could have asked a variety of people to respond to this. I settled on four state senators with an interest in this topic and the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency.

I’ll start with Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, and his response:

“The short answer is that rent controls are illegal in North Dakota as per state law.

“However, citizens asked me to sponsor legislation establishing rent controls similar to controls in place in other parts of the country. Unfortunately, these same citizens were reluctant to be public about their request, fearing retribution from their landlords and elected officials who saw rent controls as limiting immediate high profits available because of the oil boom.

“Simplistic statewide rent control in the form of a law that makes rent increase illegal does not make sense. But giving authority to cities to limit the amount of increase to the rate of inflation makes sense. It gives the control to local authorities with a practical economic parameter.

“The main point, though, is that energy development in North Dakota has an upside and downside. Where there is a downside, like escalating rents that put people into the street and price gouging, government needs to act.

“This includes developing more housing projects, placing expectations on the energy industry to share the wealth and giving cities the tools to manage housing policy for their citizens. Rent control can be one of those tools for some cities in crisis.”

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, gave this response:

“It does disappoint me when landlords double rents on persons who have rented from them for many years. However, I believe in property rights of the owner. The renting of any property is a private contract between two parties. 

“Any time government steps in and sets limits and set up price control, it ends up being counterproductive. Developers who build apartments and rental property tend not to invest in building when price controls are in place.

“We need to let the free enterprise system work and let the developers build housing to meet the needs of the community. When the rental market reaches a point where there are more apartments than persons that want to rent them, then the price to rent decreases.

“The income tax credit for low-income housing is a program that is available to communities to build low-income housing. It is not the complete answer, but can help meet some of the needs.”

Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor, D-Towner, who is running for governor, said:

“Unfortunately, over a decade ago, the North Dakota Legislature passed a law that deemed rent control illegal, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t begin to talk about other ways the state can help reduce the rent burden of the people living in oil-impacted communities.

“As a state, we need to look at all the options that are on the table to address this issue. Whether it is providing state tax incentives for developers to build affordable housing in the western part of the state, establishing state-run programs that incorporate affordable housing within new and existing units or providing terms from our state-owned Bank of North Dakota to property owners that keep rents at a reasonable rate.

“With our state’s substantial surplus comes a responsibility, and the fiscal ability, to take care of our own. Addressing the rent crisis in western North Dakota is a good place to start.”

I also talked to Sen. Stan Lyson, R-Williston. He said he knows the increasing cost of rent is a problem, but he has concerns about regulating free enterprise.

“Because where do you stop? Do we start to regulate the price they put on gasoline or the price they put on milk or bread or any type of groceries?” he said.

Residential construction continues in Williston and is starting to catch up, he said.

“I honestly believe, as we catch up … rent is going to start coming down,” Lyson said.

Here’s what North Dakota Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Mike Anderson said:

“Section §47-16-02.1 of the North Dakota Century Code prohibits a political subdivision from enacting, maintaining or enforcing an ordinance or resolution that restricts the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential or commercial property.

“The prohibition does not extend to a political subdivision (a city, county or local housing authority, for example) from restricting rents on property it owns.

“The North Dakota Housing Finance Agency administers programs that have been active in creating apartments in North Dakota set aside for households of modest means. The common characteristic of these rental programs is that rents are restricted to be affordable for lower-income individuals and families.

“In response to North Dakota’s growing need for affordable housing, the state legislative assembly, during the 2011 session, approved the Housing Incentive Fund program to help address the need for affordable multifamily rental housing development.

“The fund is capitalized by contributions from state income taxpayers. In return for supporting the fund, taxpayers earn a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit.

“The money contributed to the fund provides flexible financing to developers who agree to rent to low- and moderate-income households. The program subsidizes a developer’s construction costs, which, in turn, allows the apartments to be rented at lower than market rates.

“To ensure that the housing created through the Housing Incentive Fund remains affordable, the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency requires the property owner to sign a contract agreeing to income and rent restrictions. If the developer breaks the contract, the agency recaptures the state dollars invested into the project.  The length of the term of such an agreement runs from 15 to 30 years.

“Ninety percent of the $15 million Housing Incentive Fund tax credit authority is designated for use in disaster and energy-impacted communities. The housing finance agency anticipates the program will support the development of approximately 800 rental units.

“Prior to the fund, the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program was the largest resource for affordable rental housing development in North Dakota. The program produces approximately 200 to 300 rental units per year.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Sharing oil taxes

BISMARCK — How much money North Dakota’s oil- and gas-producing counties should get to help pay for all the needs that have come with rapid growth promises to be one of the biggest issues of the 2013 legislative session. (Click on image to enlarge).

Western North Dakota officials have spent recent months letting legislators know they need more money to address oil and gas impacts despite the $1.2 billion set aside to help the 17 counties with road, water, housing and other needs during the 2011-13 biennium.

One topic certain to generate discussion during the 2013 Legislature is whether the oil counties should be able to keep more of the tax revenue generated by their oil activity.

A complex formula now determines how much gross production tax revenue goes back to the counties and how much goes into assorted state accounts, including a voter-approved state Legacy Fund that collects 30 percent of oil tax revenue for the future.

Williston City Commission Vice President Brad Bekkedahl said the issue with the current formula is that as production grows, the state gets a higher percentage of the revenue.

With the level of production Williams County has currently, the state gets 90 percent of the gross production tax and 10 percent goes back to the county.

City leaders hope legislators will adjust the formula during the next session, said Bekkedahl, who is the city’s finance commissioner.

“It makes little sense to us out here that deal with the impacts that you get busier but you get less of the money,” Bekkedahl said. “It’s not enough to keep up with what’s happening.”

House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, said potential changes to the tax formula will depend on the makeup of the Legislature after the fall election.

There are two ways to approach the oil counties’ financial needs: revising the tax formula to let more money go directly to the counties or having the Legislature determine how much state money to spend on western infrastructure and needs, he said.

“I’m sure there will be people on both sides of that issue,” Delzer said. “In general, as long as the revenue keeps coming in the way it is, there’s certainly going to be spending on infrastructure whether it’s done through the counties or through the state.”

Amy Dalrymple contributed to this report.

 

 

Bonus holiday edition Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

If North Dakota is the No. 2 producing oil state in the United States, then why don’t we do what Alaska does and give the citizen a percentage of the money from the oil that the state produces?

Todd Gonser

Dickinson

Thanks for writing! I hear this question often lately, so it’s a good time to do a refresher on this issue. I’ll give a short answer and then a longer one about why the state doesn’t do this.

The simple answer: The state Constitution doesn’t allow it. North Dakota has a complex system for how it distributes oil tax money that doesn’t leave a lot of “free” money left over. It would require state law and constitutional changes to change this system. Plus, Alaska has much more money.

Now, here’s the longer explanation, starting with Tax Commissioner Cory Fong’s response:

“Many have suggested that the state of North Dakota make direct payments back to North Dakota’s residents using the surplus oil/gas tax revenues, similar to the state of Alaska’s program. 

“In order for North Dakota to do something similar, our state Constitution would likely need to be changed. Currently, the North Dakota Constitution prohibits the state from ‘gifting’ state money unless it is given in support of the needy or some other public good.

“Even if the state Constitution allowed for direct payments back to our state residents, those payments would be spread among all qualifying recipients. Depending on the requirements of the program, the payment per person may not amount to that much.”

The reason Fong says this is because the state has a complex formula for how it distributes/spends oil tax money, which I explained in two columns several months ago.

Total oil tax collections for this biennium – through May – are $714.1 million in production tax and $787.7 million in extraction tax, or about $1.5 billion, according to the state Tax Department.

A chunk of the oil tax revenue benefits the oil and gas counties. From July 1, 2011, through this May, oil and gas producing counties (and cities/schools/townships) received a combined total of $93.7 million through the distribution formula, said Kathy Strombeck of the Tax Department.

There was also $100 million in oil tax money set aside to provide energy impact grants to the oil and gas counties, as well as $4 million for oil and gas research.

Several western North Dakota officials have told legislators they need to send more money back to the oil counties, so these numbers could go up in the future.

Other oil tax money goes into accounts that support property tax relief ($261.8 million worth so far and growing), K-12 education, infrastructure and flood projects across the state.

Plus, 30 percent of oil tax revenue is locked up in the Legacy Fund until 2017. The fund has rules for how money can be spent after that. As of June, there was nearly $397 million in the fund.

One could point to the oil tax revenue that goes into the general fund as money that could go back to North Dakota residents. Right now, there’s a cap of $300 million in oil revenue that can go into the general fund.

Legislators will more than likely use surplus general fund money for further tax relief and infrastructure needs during the next session.

But, for fun, let’s say the $300 million was slated to go back to North Dakota residents instead. If there are 684,000 North Dakota residents, that would come up to $438 per person.

But, keep in mind there would also need to be additional state employees hired to accept and review applications and to manage and distribute this money like there is in Alaska.

Alaska, which has a population of about 723,000, has a dividend division with 81 employees. The division’s operating budget for fiscal year 2013 is $8.4 million, said Jerry Burnett of the Alaska Department of Revenue. Since North Dakota makes budgets in two-year periods, that would be $16.8 million.

Alaska also has a Permanent Fund Corp., which manages the now $40.5 billion fund. The corporation has an operating budget of approximately $11 million for fiscal year 2013 with about 40 positions, Burnett said. They are authorized to spend a little more than $100 million in external custody and management fees in fiscal year 2013, he said.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. is self-supporting. All expenses are paid out of the revenue generated by the fund’s investments, said spokeswoman Laura Achee.

The expenses of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division are also paid out of fund earnings (subtracted from the dividend lump sum before it is divided into individual dividend payments) and not from the general fund, she said.

So, once all of that is taken into account (plus paying for North Dakota office space for these employees), each North Dakota check would likely be worth less than $75. And the Legislature wouldn’t have that money for state projects.

Granted, the Legislature could look at raising the cap on how much oil tax revenue the general fund receives (as it has in the past), but that would mean taking money away from the infrastructure and the disaster relief funds.

North Dakota taxpayer advocate Dustin Gawrylow of Bismarck-Mandan doesn’t think there should be a direct payment of funds to residents.

“First off, those funds are not always going to be there,” he said. “What we should do with this oil revenue is look at our entire tax structure and rebalance it … while it is a populist idea to start cutting checks to everybody, the better thing would be to take that (money) and use it to prevent taxes from ever having to go up again in the state.”

One could point to the interest and earnings of the Legacy Fund as a potential for returning money to residents in the future. Now at almost $400 million, it’s in the beginning stages compared to Alaska’s $40.5 billion permanent fund.

Here’s more on Alaska’s system from my past and recent discussions with Burnett from the Alaska Department of Revenue:

“It is a common misperception outside of Alaska that the state is paying out a portion of its oil royalties, or even oil taxes, to residents … the dividends that are paid to residents come from the earnings on royalties that are invested in a range of assets including stocks, bonds and real estate.” 

In 1976, there was a constitutional amendment in Alaska that set up the permanent fund, which receives 25 to 50 percent of the rents and royalties from minerals – which are almost entirely oil.

The principal of the fund cannot be spent, but the earnings can be appropriated by the Legislature.

In the early 1980s, the Legislature set up a program where half of the average of the previous five years’ earnings on the permanent fund would be returned to state residents each year—a permanent fund dividend.

Dividend amounts have varied from hundreds of dollars to more than $2,000. Last year’s dividend was $1,174, Burnett said.

In years when there’s a need for additional money, there’s been pressure to use the fund for other things. “But people become very bought into the idea of getting money every year, so it does make it very difficult once you start doing this to use the money for anything else,” Burnett told me a few years ago.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

(Regarding) minerals I have inherited in Slope County, North Dakota: As I look on the Oil and Gas Commission’s map, it appears that drilling stops at the north of the county and begins again in the county to the south.

It makes me wonder why. Since I don’t have a clue who the other mineral owners are, could it be because no one can find them? If this is the situation, does North Dakota allow an oil company to “force pool” that acreage and place those monies in a suspense account until the owners are found?  I’m concerned because I have enough acreage for the drilling locations, sites or pads.

Respectfully,

Jack Gant

Mustang Island in Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast

Thanks for writing! I contacted North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources spokeswoman Alison Ritter. Here’s what she said:

“There is a tiny part of the Bakken that reaches northeastern Slope County, and operators simply haven’t moved that far south yet. There is no Bakken formation present in (neighboring) Bowman County. Historically, any drilling done in Bowman County has targeted other formations. If mineral owners aren’t locatable, the royalties paid on a well are sent to the Unclaimed Property Division of the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands.”

 

Dear Teri,

I have a question that has come up often amongst friends while traveling together.

We have noticed that the yield signs are no longer posted on the on-ramps for interstate as they used to be and, fairly often, (I) have been flipped off by my fellow citizen for not adjusting for their inappropriate speeds, either way too slow or a speed above what is posted for the area. 

When I went to driving school many years ago, the person adjusted their speed coming onto the highway, to fit into the openings. Many of them are not up to speed yet, and they except me to slow down to let them onto the highway. Have there been some traffic rule changes that many of us missed?

Thanks for your time.

Donna Johnson

Fargo

Thanks for writing! I contacted Lt. Jody Skogen with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and Jamie Olson with the North Dakota Department of Transportation. Here’s what Skogen said:

“Drivers entering a roadway from an on ramp should do so in a manner that does not cause traffic already on that roadway to be forced to compensate for them. That being said, responsible motorists can anticipate the merge and make a lane change or slightly adjust their speed to help facilitate a smooth and safe lane entry.”

Here’s what Olson said:

“The reason there are no longer yield signs on the on-ramps to the interstate is that, over the years, the interstate ramps have been lengthened to comply with federal standards. Therefore, yield signs are no longer needed. The entrance ramps allow you to adjust your speed to merge safely with the flow of traffic on the highway. Only stop on the ramps if there is no opening in the traffic flow. Unless posted signs indicate otherwise, any vehicle entering the freeway from an entrance ramp must yield the right of way to vehicles on the main roadway.

“Thank you for contacting the North Dakota Department of Transportation.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Latest oil stats

BISMARCK– The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources has released a new batch of oil statistics:

March Oil 17,901,807 barrels = 577,478 barrels/day

April Oil 18,281,116 barrels = 609,371 barrels/day (preliminary) (NEW all-time high)

March Gas 19,302,603 MCF = 622,665 MCF/day

April Gas 19,521,986 MCF = 650,733 MCF/day (preliminary) (NEW all-time high)

March Producing Wells = 6,932

April Producing Wells = 7,025 (NEW all-time high)

March Permitting: 181 drilling and 1 seismic

April Permitting: 167 drilling and 2 seismic (all time high was 245 in Nov 2010)

March Sweet Crude Price = $76.29/barrel

April Sweet Crude Price = $78.17/barrel

Tuesday’s Sweet Crude Price = $73.25/barrel ND (all-time high was $136.29 July 3, 2008)

March rig count 205

April rig count 209

May rig count 211

Tuesday’s rig count is 212 (All-time high was 218 on May 29, 2012)

Western N.D. child care pilot program moves forward

BISMARCK—State officials agreed Wednesday to move forward with a pilot program that aims to provide more child care in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

The Board of University and School Lands set aside $500,000 of energy impact grant funding for the cost-share program.

Oil-producing cities or other political subdivisions can apply for up to $125,000 to create new openings for child care.

The money can be used to help buy a community-owned modular child care facility to lease to a for-profit or nonprofit operator. The money could also be used to help build a public early childhood facility or expand an existing publicly-owned and privately-operated childhood facility.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed the idea to the board a few weeks ago. The state’s energy impact grant program has helped other infrastructure needs in western North Dakota, but the “tremendous need” for day care services hasn’t been addressed, Dalrymple said.

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt again expressed concern Wednesday that the state was competing with the private sector.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said they want families to come to western North Dakota, but there needs to be day care for them to come. He said the program is a pilot, and they can see how it works.

“I don’t think anybody is going to object because the need is so overwhelming,” he said.

Dalrymple said he was confident the state wasn’t taking away private sector opportunities. The supply of home-based child care is exhausted, and it’s too expensive in today’s market to buy property and start a child care, he said.

Eligible western North Dakota governments that apply for grant funding will need to demonstrate inadequate child care capacity and would need to acquire the property for the childcare facility.

The board plans to discuss grant awards in late July.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

I believe you printed an article on where handicap placards should be placed. It said that we could now place in full view on the driver’s side of the dash instead of hanging. I did this and got a ticket from our police for improper placement. I tried to find out on the North Dakota government site but could find nothing. Can you help me with this? Thank you. 

Mary Gebro

Wahpeton

Thanks for writing! I haven’t written anything about this issue before, so I’m not sure what article you saw. But Lt. Jody Skogen with the North Dakota Highway Patrol tells me that handicap placards must be hung from the rearview mirror while parked and removed while the vehicle is in motion.

The rule can be found at www.dot.nd.gov/divisions/mv/docs/faq-placards-and-parking.pdf.

Here is the full text relating to your question:

“How do I display my parking placard?

“Parking placards must be hung from the rearview mirror of the motor vehicle whenever the vehicle is occupying a space reserved for the mobility impaired and is being used by a mobility-impaired person or another person for the purposes of transporting the mobility-impaired person. No part of the placard may be obscured. The permit must be removed when the vehicle is in operation.”

 

Dear readers,

A West Fargo reader sent me the following question:

How do I find out if there is oil drilling on a section where I have a minority mineral interest? I have the township and section information. Also how do I know what papers to sign? I have heard if you own a minority interest they do not have to notify you.

This is a sensitive matter for me. 

Thanks for writing! I contacted Alison Ritter with the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources. Here’s what she said:

“If people are curious about their mineral information, they can always track drilling on our website. (NOTE: This can be found at www.dmr.nd.gov/oilgas.)

“There are a number of different ways to do so. First, they can enter the section, township and range on our GIS map server and see what drilling may be taking place near their land.

“They can also track drilling rigs under “active drilling rig list” (on the website). That list gives a section, township and range as to where the rig is located. Lastly, if mineral owners are unsure if their land has been permitted, they can always follow the daily activity list (on the website) to see what permits have been issued.

“As far as what papers to sign, the Oil and Gas Division does not handle leasing information in our office. We always advise mineral owners to contact a lawyer with experience in oil and gas related issues with any questions.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

Just wondering if anyone in North Dakota government is looking at building/contracting a recovery plant for used fracking liquids? I truly believe that this plant would get our state out in front on the issue, as well as being able to exert some control over the process. Biological markers could be introduced pre-fracking and then confirmed when the liquids were returned to the recovery site.

Donald Barcome Jr.

Grand Forks

Thanks for writing! I contacted a few people about your question. I started with Department of Mineral Resources Assistant Director Bruce Hicks. He said they aren’t in the business of recovering and recycling fluids, but they are interested in it. He referred me to the Health Department to see if they could tell me anything more.

Health Department spokeswoman Stacy Eberl sent the question to Dave Glatt, Environmental Health Section chief.

“Some vendors have informally contacted us regarding the possibility, but there are not concrete plans for a plant like this at this time,” she told me after talking to Glatt.

I also contacted the Energy & Environmental Research Center in Grand Forks. Spokesman Derek Walters said the EERC is aware of several private-sector entities evaluating potential facilities but cannot comment specifically.

The EERC has published studies in partnership with the North Dakota Industrial Commission regarding current practices for hydraulic fracturing, which focused on the challenge mentioned, he said.

One is called Bakken Water Opportunities Assessment – Phase 1. “The Energy & Environmental Research Center Northern Great Plains Water Consortium identified a potential opportunity to economically treat and reuse water that is used in hydraulic fracturing operations in the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota,” according to the description on the EERC website.

You can find more information about this at www.undeerc.org/bakken. Click on current research studies.

Dear Teri,

If someone gets a violation for excessive weight while driving a commercial motor vehicle, would they get points assessed against their license along with the fine or just the fine?

Sonia Felix

Killdeer

Thanks for writing! I asked the Highway Patrol about this. Capt. Eldon Mehrer told me there are no points assessed for overweight penalties.

“The overload fees are a civil penalty and are incremental based on the number of pounds over legal weights,” he said.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

Latest oil report

BISMARCK–The state Department of Mineral Resources sent out this oil report late last week:

Nov Oil 15,318,314 barrels = 510,610 barrels/day

Dec Oil 16,581,269 barrels = 534,880 barrels/day (preliminary) (NEW all time high)

 

Nov Gas 15,683,641 MCF = 522,788 MCF/day

Dec Gas 16,870,951 MCF = 544,224 MCF/day (preliminary) (NEW all time high)

 

Nov Producing Wells = 6,332

Dec Producing Wells = 6,471 (NEW all time high)

 

Nov Permitting: 169 drilling and 4 seismic

Dec Permitting: 180 drilling and 2 seismic (all time high was 245 in Nov 2010)

 

Nov Sweet Crude Price = $88.54/barrel

Dec Sweet Crude Price = $88.57/barrel

Today Sweet Crude Price = $84.75/barrel ND (all time record high $136.29 July 3, 2008)

 

Nov rig count 199

Dec rig count 199

Jan rig count 200

Today’s rig count is 203(all time record high was 204 on Jan 25-27, 2012) 

Comments:

The warm dry weather through the fourth quarter of 2011 increased hydraulic fracturing activity and rapidly increased production. As a result, even with rig count up very slightly, daily production increased another 5%. Over 95% of drilling is still targeting the Bakken and Three Forks formations. The idle well count is up slightly. This still indicates just under 300 wells waiting on fracturing services, which are now keeping up with drilling activity, but more crews are needed to catch up.

The full report can be found here.