The opening of the North Dakota Legislative Session has kept the LEC very busy, with ongoing operations and transition proceeding smoothly.

Mike Holmes is not up and running as our Research and Development Director, and has been coming to Bismarck regularly to meet with people and learn about projects. He is planning to visit with each Company’s R&D person to discuss priorities, our Roadmap and ideas for furthering the cause.  I think he will be a great addition, and already understands much of the process involving the LRC.

Our NDSU Studies were finalized this week and both are attached.  In summary, the “simple” total investment has been $8.1B, while the “what would it cost to build this again” investment is $18B. The economic impact and employment numbers have been updated and are extremely relevant, with our $100M in tax revenue being an easy to digest number for the legislators to understand.  Another new component was the section to project the economic impact of new power plants—to give people an idea of what economic growth could accompany a new plant.  We are very excited about the studies and will be rolling them out with accompanying graphics and materials.  Legislators will have a summary of the highlights as soon as tomorrow at our Legislative Reception.

Legislatively, our first weeks have been great.  One of our priorities was to keep the R&D tax that was supposed to sunset; that hearing was successful and we expect to maintain that elevated level of R&D Funding.

Today we also had our first hearing on our increased funding requests for 2017, and the hearing went very well.  Our legislators—almost every one—are very knowledgeable about what the industry is doing and asked great questions.  Our Government Relations teams have all done a great job of bringing legislators along since last session.

I’ve also attached a document that outlines all our funding opportunities for 2017, with accompanying bills and dollar amounts.  Hopefully that will let you all see which bills are important, and the amounts that are potentially available for funding.  So far, we have not heard much opposition to our plans.  However, as I’ve done before, because we are being given access to the Renewable Fund I just want to flag that issue for you all as one that may become a sticking point between different energy industries.

Mike Holmes and I had a briefing with Governor Burgum about our R&D program.  He asked great questions and expressed support for what we do.  His level of knowledge about R&D is very good…a concern is simply how he views government supported R&D as a governing philosophy.
To follow up on that meeting, we have set up a broader meeting for members of the Management Committee on January 31 with Governor Burgum to discuss our priorities and industry.

Interestingly, I recently opened my own personal twitter account as part of our 2017 communications strategy and Governor Burgum has retweeted a couple of my tweets—no big deal but its just an example of how we are trying to get to him in non-traditional ways.  He has never done anything with our Lignite twitter account.

In Minnesota, we have been asked to provide support for a “clean coal” hearing that the House and Senate would like to do—highlighting our R&D efforts the way we did back in August at our MN Golf Tournament.  We will be in touch with the appropriate R&D folks.

Tomorrow night is our Legislative Reception—we have a great crowd anticipated and should have a good turnout since no blizzard is expected.