It’s an election year, and as Democrats make their case for replacing at least some of the Republican super majority in North Dakota state government, one of their arguments is that the Republicans have regulated the state’s energy industry with too light a touch.
That’s certainly one way to look at it. Another way is to see that a cooperative, non-adversarial regulatory process has allowed industry in the state to flourish.
Case in point, Montana-Dakota Utlities is building near Dickinson the first refinery to be built in the United States in a couple of generations. Asked why they chose North Dakota, their answer was a “prompt regulatory response” from the state (emphasis mine, via Million Dollar Way).
During the recent energy conference when MDU Chief Executive Officer, David Goodin, was asked why they located the first refinery to be built in the US since 1976 near Dickinson, his gracious response was to say that they were “pleased” with the prompt regulatory process of North Dakota. The project was launched and it is expected to be completed within a two-year span.
There was plenty of mumbled audience comment which indicated that most of the people in the room understood why the question was asked, and they understood what wasn’t said. Application for permitting in Montana wouldn’t even begin to be processed within a two-year span. The company or any company could very well be still waiting for permitting, ten years from now, having spent millions on legal expenses.
A similar response emerged when one speaker reported the annual rate at which Germany is expected to build coal-fired generating plants, over the next 30 years. “We couldn’t even get one permitted in thirty years,” said one conference attendee. Whether true or not, such isn’t outside the realm of possibility in Montana, and just that fact alone is enough to dissuade most investors from even testing the waters.
The refinery in question is the Dakota Prairie Refinery.
A refinery in North Dakota is great for a number of reasons. It expands the market for North Dakota’s energy commodities. It will create jobs for North Dakota citizens. It will produce in-demand products that can be sold to North Dakota and the rest of the world.
And it’s happening, in a timely manner, because North Dakota’s leadership has a permissive attitude toward energy development. Rather than promoting a hostile relationship with the energy industry, North Dakota’s leadership promotes a cooperative relationship.
Some see that approach as evidence of corruption. We hear all the time about how North Dakota is being run by the energy industry. But what would those critics prefer? To leave North Dakota’s resources under the ground, where they do no good, or to see those resources brought out of the ground and turned into useful products through profitable, economy-stimulating enterprise?