Murphy’s Law #15

March 7, 2017

This blog got delayed due to technical issues… OnThursday, March 2 there was a hearing for SB2047. This bill came out of the Water Topics Overview interim committee and then through Senate Natural Resources to eventually pass and cross to House Natural Resources. The hearing was all in favor, no opposition. Like its counterpart that passed the House (HB1244), SB2047 is about the ability of Water Resource Districts to use Quick Take to move drainage or water projects along when someone resists an easement. HB1244 was amended to make Quick Take nearly impossible because of wording concerning appropriated dollars which is an action proponents are hoping is not placed on SB2047. House Natural Resources took no action on SB2047.
More water was discussed this morning (all morning) in Senate Energy and Natural Resources in the form of HB1374. The idea of the bill is to require an economic analysis as to the benefits of water projects and some structural changes to the Water Commission Board. Some of these ideas might be good, but it would significantly slow down the process. The bill was presented by its prime sponsor and then the only in-favor entity was the Water Commission. It turns out that they got up in favor because they did not know if neutral testimony was going to be taken. They said nothing positive that I recall but did ask for three sections to be amended or removed. Then Water Resource Districts from around the state got up to testify against because they fear the wording would keep funding from drainage projects. They stressed most of them are farmers and that farmers cannot produce without drainage.
Scott attended the Office of Management and Budget meeting Friday morning. Some takeaways include that for every $1 bump in oil price, the state changes its tax revenue by about $70 million either way. With our West Texas Intermediate price at about $54/bbl , when the discount is applied, we get around $47. About $3 of that discount goes away now that DAPL can put about half our oil where it needs to go. Another is that we have about 80,000 more jobs in ND than we did 10 years ago. Wells are going to continue coming on line from around 700 waiting for completion now to 1,000 in 2018.
The effort to split the Dept. of Health by creating a new Dept. of Environmental Quality had a hearing on the House side today. That is SB2327 and the only one to speak against it in the Senate hearing brought some folks in for this hearing. Neither of us was able to be there, but an Ag representative told me that most of the entities were in favor. The head of that division says there really is not going to be any difference in action, but the rub seems to be partly that with the new division, the advisory board currently does not have enough Ag representation and there is an effort to pump that up. It would appear that the addition of two more from agriculture will be put on the bill. The fate of the bill is another matter.