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Dayton wants to work on ND relationship

GRAND FORKS — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants to restore a “formerly good” working relationship with North Dakota if he’s re-elected Tuesday.

In a letter to the Herald published in today’s opinion section, Dayton cited several challenges his state has faced as a result of energy development in North Dakota, as well as disputes over flood protection in Fargo-Moorhead. Trains carrying oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil formation, pipeline construction and a lawsuit over Minnesota legislation requiring new coal-fired power plants to offset emissions were all things mentioned in Dayton’s letter.

“The leaders of both states need to re-establish our formerly good working relationships,” Dayton wrote. “I accept my share of the responsibility for this lapse. If I am re-elected, I will also accept my share of the responsibility to rectify it.”

Dayton is facing Republican Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, in Tuesday’s election. The Herald asked both candidates to write about how they would handle issues that affect both states, and what Minnesota could learn from its neighbor.

Johnson said Minnesota could learn from North Dakota’s “common sense” policies, and criticized an “increasingly Twin Cities-dominated DFL Party.”

“Common sense comes from real, on the ground experience with the day-to-day realities of life,” Johnson wrote. “And there isn’t enough of it in Minnesota politics today.”

North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in an interview he was “a little surprised” by some of Dayton’s comments, and said he felt the two states already have a good relationship, even if they disagree on some things. Dayton’s letter did not mention Dalrymple by name, or any other North Dakota official.

“Certainly, from a standpoint of a governor-to-governor relationship, we get along just fine,” Dalrymple said.

Linden Zakula, a Dayton spokesman, said in an emailed statement that Dayton “looks forward to continuing to work constructively with Gov. Dalrymple on issues impacting both of our states,” if he is re-elected.


The development of the Bakken oil formation in western North Dakota has brought a flood of new workers and tax revenues into the state, but Dayton said “few of those benefits have reached Minnesota.” He said trains carrying crude oil are disrupting or delaying shipments of grain, coal, and other supplies to large industries, as well as resulting in safety concerns.

On average, seven oil-carrying trains pass through Minnesota daily, with each train carrying 3.3 million gallons of oil, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. A lack of existing pipeline infrastructure in North Dakota has helped push crude oil onto the tracks.

Dayton said he expects that Enbridge’s Sandpiper pipeline and another replacement pipeline, referred to as Line 3, will be permitted to run through Minnesota. But he doesn’t anticipate a reduction in future oil train traffic in Minnesota because of predicted increases in oil production in North Dakota.

“Once again, Minnesota is being asked to bear the disruptions and accept the risks necessary to transport our western neighbor’s oil to our neighbors to the east,” Dayton wrote. “The proper response should be, ‘Thank you,’ rather than, ‘Hurry up.’”

Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, wrote a letter to the Herald in September, chastising Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission for a vote that he said would “significantly delay” the permitting of the Sandpiper and hurt farmers. Environmental groups and other state agencies have raised concerns over the pipeline’s proposed route through the lake region of northern Minnesota, and the PUC ordered the study of additional routes.

In an interview, Peterson said he worries the Sandpiper project will take “a great deal longer than it should in Minnesota.” Regulators have already approved the pipeline to run through North Dakota.

“Minnesota just has a way of foot-dragging,” Peterson said.

But far from “foot-dragging,” Dakota Resource Council member Todd Leake said Minnesota has a more “considered” process than North Dakota for approving such projects.

“What they’re doing is balancing the environmental and social issues that are in Minnesota,” said Leake, a Grand Forks County resident.

Dalrymple said it seemed like the problems that come up have more to do with companies and utilities working with Minnesota regulators, rather than strictly between leaders of the two states.

“What I have done primarily is just asked Gov. Dayton if they would please listen to what people are trying to tell them,” he said. “And…I believe he has responded to that.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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