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Published July 26 2012

Updated ND energy policy emphasizes infrastructure, research, education

BISMARCK — An updated version of the state’s energy policy emphasizes the need to invest in infrastructure, conduct more research and development, expand energy education and collaborate more with federal regulators.

Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson presented the policy updates and recommendations to state legislators Thursday. The document is the work of a 16-member EmPower North Dakota Commission, which was created in 2007 and includes representatives from the state’s energy sectors.

This year’s report identified four areas considered critical for continuing to grow energy production and new energy-related industries: infrastructure, research and development, work force and a regulatory environment that encourages economic growth while ensuring environmentally-responsible development.

Under each of those issues, the commission lists recommendations for legislators. These include:

• Revising the state’s oil and gas tax formula to allow more money to go directly to the oil cities for roads, wastewater treatment facilities, water supply facilities and other infrastructure

• Expanding funding for the state’s housing incentive fund.

• Increasing efforts to educate North Dakota students about the state’s natural resources through curriculum that encourages interest in energy careers.

• Providing greater accessibility to career and technical education programs

• Allocating $3 million for a renewable energy research and development program

• Increasing funding to the oil and gas research program by $1 million to explore opportunities related to value-added processing of natural gas

• Providing adequate funding and staffing levels for the North Dakota Department of Health, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, North Dakota Public Service Commission and State Water Commission

Anderson said it’s unique for the various energy sectors to work together to find common ground. Although reaching that point isn’t easy, he said the end result has proven beneficial.

“What we found in the past is, if we can get a consensus with those 16 industries, we can definitely influence the policy that actually goes through the state,” Anderson said.

The overall goal of the energy policy is to set the framework for the future to enhance North Dakota’s economy, he said.

“It will hopefully provide a stronger state because we will aid not only the energy industry, but we believe all the different industries,” he said.

The report also features highlights of the state’s energy sectors. These include:

• North Dakota biodiesel production uses about 65 percent of the state’s canola production, or about 700,000 acres of canola.

• North Dakota ethanol plants use approximately 140 million bushels of corn annually with more than 80 percent of the corn purchased from North Dakota farmers.

• The average annual wage for an oil industry employee in North Dakota in 2011 was about $89,000.

• More than 800 wind turbines are operating in 20 North Dakota counties.

• The Lignite Research Council is participating in 15 research and development projects. Many focus on ways to reduce, capture and store carbon dioxide.