With the legislative session approaching the crossover, we have reasonably good news to report from out legislative side, and the other LEC activities have also been going great.
First, legislatively our priorities of new funding and coal conversion taxes were successful. We continue to enjoy strong funding for both concepts, and the bill extending the conversion tax for R&D passed the Senate 46-0. This is the “keeping what we currently have” priority. The Senate also passed the Industrial Commission budget, which included two new sections providing “advanced energy technology” development. This represented the “additional funding” we have made the centerpiece of our efforts for the past couple years. Both ideas enjoy strong support in the House.
The bill relating to the creation of a new Department of Environmental Quality passed the Senate—thank you to your Environmental Managers for reviewing this bill and providing context for policy makers.
The potential for contention in the North Dakota legislature over wind issues continues, but the LEC is attempting to stay out of this fight, except answering questions when asked. There are very real and valid concerns that have been brought to legislators, and its my opinion that the generic “wind industry” was being perceived as being a little too greedy and may have brought some of the backlash on itself. However, the moratorium that was proposed did not pass, but a “study” of energy sources did pass—allowing for the potential to have a good conversation about energy sources in North Dakota, and perhaps serves to illustrate why we need advanced coal technologies in the state.
In other news, we hosted senior Trump energy policy advisor Thomas Pyle at an event with legislators in Minnesota. When I was in St. Paul, I also met with Xcel representatives. They have heard so much about the Allam cycle and other coal R&D projects from Minnesota lawmakers that they are trying to learn more about what ND is doing.
As far as non-legislative items, our new Lignite.com is fully operations. As we move further into the new digital age, we hope to roll out a #LigniteJobs twitter account, which we would use to cross promote jobs in the industry. This is one of our powerful strengths, and this allows us to hammer on that message in real time, more consistently, and with a greater reach than we are currently doing.
We are also hosting a workshop after the LEC Annual Meeting that will be focusing on social media engagement. It will include a case-study of the #NODAPL movement and will be run by Gerard Braud. We feel so strongly about this idea that we are offering this free to our members, as well as other invited parties. We would particularly appreciate your support by having at least one Communications person attend. As we look to the future which includes pipelines, transmission lines and new power plants, this is good opportunity to understand the new landscape. I will be sending out a separate email about this but wanted to give you a heads up.
We also have received word from the Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers that they will once again become a major sponsor of our PAC events. They were happy with how it went last year and want to continue. We are actually going to take the partnership one step further this year, and have a joint meeting between our relevant Government Relations committees to just share ideas and thoughts of how to better coordinate, in ND and the nation.
Steve and Megan have continued with their efforts to travel to each facility, making updated videos and highlighting the environmental controls and other infrastructure improvements that have been made. They also traveled to Dickinson to a Chamber event.
Finally, we were offered a booth at the North Dakota Safety Council’s annual meeting, and set up a booth where we rolled footage of our safety award videos. It reinforced the commitment of our industry to safety to a great audience.
Next up is the legislative recess.
We are working with our ND Delegation on DOE budget items, since federal funding is a significant need.