Thursday, December 9, 2021 - 04:00pm

BISMARCK, N.D. Gov. Doug Burgum today is advocating for North Dakota interests and priorities in meetings with top leaders from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) during the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) winter meeting in California.

Burgum met this morning with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and also had one-on-one meetings scheduled today with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, FERC Chairman Richard Glick and Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

“North Dakota plays a key role in feeding and fueling the nation and the world, so it’s crucial that federal leaders understand and appreciate the challenges and opportunities facing our state. We’re grateful for their time and attentiveness, and to WGA for providing a forum for these important conversations that can yield real results for the state of North Dakota, the tribal nations with whom we share geography, and all our citizens,” Burgum said. “Our administration continues to promote innovation over regulation as the best path to success for our key agriculture and energy sectors and our economy as a whole, contributing to U.S. food and energy security that benefits us all.”

Burgum urged Haaland to direct Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to avoid further delay in resuming normal lease auctions of federal lands for oil and gas exploration as ordered by a federal judge in August. North Dakota sued Interior and the BLM after they suspended new oil and gas leases – which are required by law – in January 2020, shortly after President Biden took office.

The governor also highlighted the potential of North Dakota’s “geologic jackpot” of underground storage capacity for carbon dioxide to help achieve carbon neutrality, support an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes baseload coal power, and decarbonize baseload as a fast and economic approach to stabilizing the grid. In 2018, North Dakota became the first state to achieve primacy from the federal government to oversee Class VI injection wells for carbon dioxide, creating a regulatory framework to permit and attract carbon storage projects and to ensure that landowners are fairly compensated, and Burgum recommended Interior work with tribal nations to allow carbon storage and royalty payments under tribal trust lands as well.

In addition, Burgum and Haaland discussed the importance of completing the Garrison Diversion project to meet irrigation and water supply needs in central and eastern North Dakota; fixing the impassable South Unit scenic drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park; tribal gaming; and efforts to reduce incidences of missing and murdered indigenous women.

“With its many agencies touching land, water, tribal affairs, mining, parks, fish and wildlife, Interior’s impact across North Dakota is huge, and it’s critical that we stay engaged on these and other important issues,” Burgum said.

Other topics the governor planned to cover in today’s meetings included:

  • The importance of the Red River Water Supply Project to supply safe, reliable drinking water to the eastern part of the state.
  • Concerns about the rate of retirement of baseload energy sources such as coal-fired plants, which will destabilize the grid if not replaced with other dispatchable sources.
  • The importance of the U.S. and Canadian federal governments to work together to fully reopen their shared border for travel, tourism and industry.
  • Further collaboration needed with the states and regional transmission operators on emergency planning in light of last February’s weather-related power crisis in Texas that resulted in power being curtailed in North Dakota, including to natural gas production fields, which exacerbated the situation.

The WGA represents the governors of 19 western states and three U.S. territories, supporting bipartisan policy development, the exchange of best practices and ideas, and collective action on issues of critical importance to the western United States such as agriculture, energy, water economic development and natural resource development.