Thursday, April 22, 2021 - 02:50 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today signed legislation that provides tax relief for the state’s lignite coal industry as it continues to innovate for the future and supply reliable, low-cost electricity for residents and businesses in North Dakota and beyond.

House Bill 1412 exempts coal plants from the state’s coal conversion facility tax for the next five years. The bill is expected to save the industry over $20 million per year, freeing up funds to invest in innovative projects such as carbon capture and sequestration that will curb emissions and improve the industry’s long-term viability.

“This bill represents an opportunity to level the playing field for the lignite industry,” Burgum said at the Lignite Energy Council’s annual meeting today at the Ramada Inn in Bismarck. “I’m honored to sign this historic bill today. … We know that that tax relief is going to help this industry remain competitive.”

Burgum thanked the sponsors of HB 1412 – Reps. Jeff Delzer and Craig Headland, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, Sen. Jessica Bell and Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner – and all legislators who supported the bill.  

Before the bill signing, Lignite Energy Council President and CEO Jason Bohrer presented Burgum with the organization’s Public Service Award, calling the governor “a great ally” for the lignite industry. Bohrer cited Burgum’s work during the current legislative session to put the coal industry in a more competitive position, as well as his service on the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the state’s Lignite Research Fund.

Burgum said he shares the award with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford for Sanford’s tireless work on coal issues, including his efforts to help secure a buyer for Coal Creek Station. In March, Great River Energy announced it is in exclusive negotiations to sell Coal Creek Station to a buyer who would continue to operate the plant in Underwood, N.D.

Together, Burgum noted that he and Sanford have promoted an all-of-the-above energy approach based on “innovation, not regulation” to advance energy development with environmental stewardship. Under the Burgum-Sanford administration, in 2018 North Dakota became the first state in the nation to receive approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate geologic storage of carbon dioxide, which presents a huge economic opportunity for both the lignite industry and the oil industry through enhanced oil recovery.

In addition to HB 1412, coal-related legislation signed by Burgum this session includes:

  • HB 1455, which ensures counties are included in the utility planning process.
  • SB 2152, which adds geologic storage of carbon dioxide to the sales and use tax exemption.
  • SB 2206, which allows utilities to recover costs for carbon capture.
  • SB 2237, which will ensure that the state Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ’s) regulation of coal plants does not exceed federal requirements.
  • SB 2238, which gives the DEQ flexibility for regional haze standards.
  • SB 2287, which will study how best to address the increasing cost of coal insurance.
  • SB 2313, which will ensure the state has annual reports on the status and health of its electric grid.
  • SB 2317, which gives flexibility to coal companies to use their non-monetary assets as collateral to combat rising bonding and surety costs.

“There are some people in this country who would like to regulate this industry out of business. I think that’s wrongheaded. It’s bad policy. It would hurt our country,” Burgum said, crediting the Trump administration for progress on U.S. energy independence that spurred jobs and manufacturing. “We finally got ourselves in the position with energy policy where we could sell energy to our friends and allies versus buy it from our enemies. … Now we’re back facing a lot of headwinds, but you can count on us to be fighting there with you.”