Fire Disaster Avoided in Beulah

BEULAH – Last night local authorities consulted residents of Beulah to evacuate due to a grass fire, looming just south of town. This morning, a sense of calm carried over the west river town, as firefighters were able to contain and extinguish the fire, before it breached city limits.

The Knife River was the only barrier that kept the fire from becoming a major disaster. “The terrain was a huge difficulty fighting this fire,” said Eli Schumann, Beulah Fire Chief to the media.

About 100 first responders, and volunteers from various local agencies helped battle the blaze, up to the edges of the knife river. Residents were asked to go to the Beulah Civic Center for shelter until the blaze was contained. Evacuations in some areas were on a volunteer basis until about 11pm on Monday night.

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Economic Output in North Dakota from Oil & Gas Remains Strong

BISMARCK – The petroleum industry’s economic contributions remained strong in 2015 despite struggling commodity prices, according to the preliminary findings of a Economic Effects of Petroleum Industry being conducted by the North Dakota State University’s Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics. The oil and gas industry contributed $34.25 billion dollars into North Dakota’s economy in 2015. The figure is the second highest contribution since 2005 when the first study was released and was even higher than in 2011 when oil averaged above $87 per barrel.

“This study helps confirm that the petroleum industry remains one of the largest basic-sector industries in North Dakota in both good years and bad,” said Dean Bangsund, co-author of the study and research scientist for the department at NDSU. “Although the retraction in the markets caused undue hardships on the industry throughout 2015 and on into 2016, the benefits to individuals, the state and local governments, retailers and all other economic sectors continued to be strong, which has since reinforced the industry as a mainstay in North Dakota’s economy. This is especially true as oil production, versus oil field development, is increasing in relative economic importance.”

Because the industry relies on hundreds of contractors and subcontractors, the economic contributions extend beyond the mining and extraction industries. According to the study, retail trade once again saw the largest impact, taking in $8.85 billion of the $34.25 billion. Households, or personal income, saw the second-largest impact at $7.54 billion, and state and local governments rounded out the top three with $4.1 billion in royalties, taxes and other revenues from the oil and gas industry. More than six other industries in North Dakota also benefitted from oil and gas development.

“The industry has proven itself to be resilient in the face of downturns in the market,” said Ron Ness, president of the NDPC. “Through continued innovation and development, the industry is able to do more with less and have proven that they can weather these downturns and come out even stronger.”

Sorenson Returns to Stage After Battling Cancer

MEDORA, ND – The Medora Musical returns for its 52nd year in Western North Dakota, and will see the return to stage of a popular face many in the area know well,  former Bismarck Mayor, and business entrepreneur, Bill Sorenson.

“It was about a year ago right now when I was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. And about a year ago right now it didn’t look good,” said Sorensen.

After aggressive treatment, Sorenson has recovered and is now cancer free, and free to perform, and, will make his return to the Medora Musical this month, to perform alongside the new host of the show, Chet Wollan. The Musical will feature a cast full of talent from across the country – including five other North Dakotans from Dickinson, Bismarck, and Fargo, and Grand Forks.

“A lot of the material he has is in the show, he does some of the writing for us,” said Wollan. “A lot of the good jokes are his, a lot of the bad jokes are his too.”

Jokes that Bill will continue writing for future shows. As his battle with cancer proves, he’s not an easy guy to get rid of.

Sorensen, looking toward the season comments, “You know, looking at the whole situation, and thinking of this summer, I’m happy to have another chance to hit the stage with the whole cast, to perform in front of 100, maybe 120,000 people, and this year, to get to do it with a bunch of really, really talented performers from right here in North Dakota.

“It’s not often we get this many North Dakotans in the show,” he continues. “My role doesn’t sing, but for the others, the talent level has to be so high not just vocally, but also their dancing and acting, and the competition at the auditions comes from all over the country. So to be a part of the show this year is really special.”

Burgum Disappointed in Vote on BLM Flaring and Venting Rule

BISMARCK – Governor Doug Burgum released the following statement today after the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 to reject a resolution of disapproval for the Bureau of Land Management’s “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation” rule, commonly known as the flaring and venting rule.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the Senate failed to revoke the intrusive, one-size-fits-all BLM flaring rule,” Burgum said. “This duplicative rule intrudes on our state’s authority to regulate oil and gas waste on state and privately owned lands, creating confusion over jurisdictional boundaries while not fully acknowledging the tremendous progress North Dakota and the industry have made to reduce flaring.

Allowing the BLM rule to remain in place will have detrimental impacts on a significant portion of oil and gas operations on public lands and on North Dakota’s economy as a whole. We thank Sen. Hoeven for his vote in support of the resolution and hope for future action to repeal the rule.”

North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana filed a legal challenge to the rule immediately after it was published in the Federal Register last November. A district court judge subsequently denied all of the petitioners’ motions for preliminary injunctions, which allows for the rule to go into effect. However, a March 2017 executive order from President Trump directs the Secretary of the Interior to review the rule and if possible, suspend, revise or rescind the BLM rule.

Burgum also expressed his strong support for using the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule in a letter sent in February to Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation.

Oil Emulsion Spill in Bowman County

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has been notified of an oil emulsion spill resulting from a pipeline leak in Bowman County.  The pipeline is a buried 3-inch in diameter flow line operated by Continental Resources. The spill was discovered Saturday, April 22, approximately five miles southwest of Marmarth and was reported that same day. Oil emulsion is a mixture of crude oil and brine produced from a well.

An estimated 18 barrels of Red River Formation crude oil and seven barrels of brine leaked from the pipeline. Crude oil from the Red River Formation has a thicker consistency than Bakken crude oil and therefore will make for quicker cleanup. An unknown amount of emulsion has flowed into and impacted about 14 miles of the Little Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Little Missouri River. Crude oil has not reached the Little Missouri River.

The section of pipeline that leaked has been isolated and is currently being excavated. Continental Resources is working with a remediation contractor that specializes in water-oil cleanup. As of April 23, 14 barrels of oil and six barrels of brine had been recovered from the site.

NDDoH personnel have been at the site since April 22 and will continue to monitor the investigation and cleanup.

Spring Construction Begins on North Dakota Roads

BISMARCK – Spring has arrived, which means warmer weather, and now it’s time for the North Dakota Department of Transportation to begin road construction projects. Most of the road work is expected to be complete by this fall but could create havoc for those traveling this summer in western and central North Dakota.

Projects include: Construction will begin Monday, April 24 on the US 83 West Bypass near Minot. The Bypass will be expanded to four-lanes from US 2 north to 4th Ave. NW with the construction of two new bridges adjacent to the existing bridges over the Souris River and the Canadian Pacific Railway in 2017.  Work on the existing roadway including the replacement of the existing bridge over the Souris River will take place in 2018.

Another project will begin Tuesday, April 25 on ND Highway 20 from Jamestown north to ND Highway 9. Construction consists of roadway widening, curve realignment and resurfacing.

During road construction, please be aware:

  • Speeds will be reduced to 25-40 mph
  • A width restriction of 12 feet will be in place
  • Flaggers and pilot car will be present
  • Motorists may experience delays during pilot car operations
  • Gravel and oil may be present on the roadway

Drive safely as we head into warmer weather, and for more information about construction projects and road conditions throughout North Dakota, call 511

North Dakota Passes Law Protecting Consumers From Massive, Unexpected Air Ambulance Bills

BISMARCK – Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread today praised the signing of Senate Bill 2231, regarding the regulation of how insurance companies pay for air ambulance services in North Dakota. The bill also requires hospitals to notify patients in non-emergency situations which air ambulance providers have a contractual agreement with the patient’s health insurance company.

Air ambulance has become a more frequently used mode of transport for individuals needing medical care. Often these patients are then faced with unexpected and outrageous bills for the full cost of the flight or the balance left after a partial payment is made by the patient’s insurer, a practice known as “balance billing.” Insurance does not cover the cost of an air ambulance when the ambulance provider does not have a contract with the patient’s health plan, even if the patient is one of the 88 percent of North Dakotans who have health insurance.

“It’s important to know that these lifesaving flights often come with life-altering bills, and what is most frustrating to the Insurance Department is that many of the complaints we receive are from people who have insurance, have been responsible, and through no fault of their own, are facing insurmountable balance bills from an air ambulance company,” Godfread said. “These consumers did not have the option or ability to choose their provider, and now because of the choices made by someone else, are left facing bankruptcy.”

From 2013 through January 2017, the Department has received 28 complaints totaling $1.66 million in charges for air ambulance services, excluding one case in which the total for services rendered is unknown at this time. Based upon these complaints, each air ambulance ride has costed the consumer $59,287 on average. Consumers in North Dakota, have reported being billed amounts ranging from $75-$66,597. However, these numbers don’t include the hundreds of complaints that have been made directly to insurers regarding air ambulance services.

Senator Judy Lee (R-West Fargo) was the bill’s primary sponsor and instrumental in its passage. “It is important to protect citizens in critical medical situations from unexpected high costs beyond what insurance covers,” Lee said. “It also is important to keep this issue visible to the federal government.”

Air ambulance services are also used for inter-hospital transfers when a patient requires treatment at a different facility. According to Godfread, it was common sense to add a requirement for hospitals to notify patients in non-emergency situations which air ambulances have contractual agreements with the patient’s insurance company to the bill.

“I feel this legislation strikes a balance between ensuring we have these services in our state, while at the same time protecting our consumers from bankruptcy,” Godfread said. “Consumers in North Dakota should not have to choose between saving a loved one’s life and facing financial ruin, especially when they have health insurance. I am proud of the work we have done to find a solution by working within our insurance regulations to protect the consumers of North Dakota. I also want to commend the Governor and the Legislature for addressing this critical problem that is not only affecting North Dakota, but has become an epidemic across the entire nation.”