To catch you up on a few different items of the last month: The Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee met a couple weeks ago with the Soybean Council one of 30 or so entities whose turn had come. Their part went well, but the committee heard from the Commerce Department folks who had been subjected to treatment from the State Auditor that they considered unfair/unduly harsh. Because of some findings, the Auditor had turned to the office of the Attorney General to investigate some Commerce personnel. The Auditor said his hands were tied as he was following the letter of the law, while the committee questioned that, stating that previous Auditors had never taken such a step. The members of the committee, with one exception, were wondering why the Auditor’s office had not attempted to work with Commerce to alleviate the problems before taking the step to the A.G. office, especially because the Commerce personnel were forced to get their own personal attorneys and have had their lives “turned upside down” with commensurate stresses and morale problems. The Auditor replied he was simply following the law. It has been in the news and hopefully can be quickly solved.
This past week the Energy Development and Transmission Committee met and discussed natural gas in the state. Several industry people testified to give the committee an understanding of how North Dakota is faring with flaring. We are capturing greater amounts than ever, but because of the continuing increase in wells and great gains in getting more out of each well every year, we are actually flaring more cubic feet of gas than ever and the percent captured has dipped. There are several developments in pipelines and onsite usage of gas to frac wells, for instance, as well as more plants coming online. With our percentage of gas capture in in the high 80s, the state has mandated a higher percentage and industry is struggling to get there, many companies even holding back some development to try and get the infrastructure in place. As to the overall Bakken play, in August we had 15,942 producing wells. In 20 years, we should have about 65,000 producing wells. Speaking of oil, the Legacy Fund Earnings Committee met in Fargo and heard from over 20 presenters about what they thought the money could be used for. NDSGA Executive Director Nancy Johnson pitched the idea of permanently funding research chairs at both UND and NDSU. Several folks had related that they are afraid of losing experienced researchers and she thinks that this fits the bill for a Legacy project. Makes sense to me and we may be asking for support come legislative session to move this forward. Agriculture and Transportation committee will be meeting for the second time come December to address how the state (and now our Ag Department) will handle insolvencies and grain inspection, bonding, etc. I hope everyone is too busy in the field to read any of this – go get ‘em!