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‘We need more money:’ House chairmen visit ND for ‘listening tour’

BELFIELD -- The theme of two recent legislative tours of western North Dakota could be summed up with one phrase: "We need more money." Those were MBI Oil and Gas's Jim Arthaud's parting words Thursday to a delegation of state representatives rep...

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Press Photo by Nadya Faulx Billings County Commissioner Jim Arthaud speaks to North Dakota state representatives Thursday at MBI Oil and Gas near Belfield.

BELFIELD - The theme of two recent legislative tours of western North Dakota could be summed up with one phrase: “We need more money.”
Those were MBI Oil and Gas’s Jim Arthaud’s parting words Thursday to a delegation of state representatives representing a number of legislative committees, including transportation, taxation, and industry, business and labor, who stopped by his oil production company’s headquarters in Belfield.
The group of about 10 North Dakota state representatives, including House Majority Leader Al Carlson, visited the facility on what Republican Rep. Mike Nathe called a “listening tour” of western North Dakota, just a week after more than 30 legislators completed a similar tour of the Bakken.
“We need to be on the ground to see what’s going on,” Carlson said, “because anybody in their right mind knows that the energy industry and infrastructure’s going to dominate our next session.”
The group heard input on issues ranging from infrastructure to regulations on the rapidly growing energy industry.
Oil-related jobs represent about 15 percent of North Dakota’s total workforce population, according to a recent report from Job Service North Dakota; in 2013, 40 percent of all jobs in Stark County are in the oil and gas sector.
Carlson said after the meeting that he plans to visits the oil-producing counties about three times a year to see “what investments we’ve made and what the needs are for the next session.”
Like last week’s legislative tour, this pared-down visit included stops with community leaders in Dickinson and Watford City, where Nathe said the group discussed the region’s needs and challenges from a financial standpoint.
“They’ve got big challenges there,” Nathe said.
Representatives and residents of oil-producing counties have long argued for a larger share of oil money to fund new infrastructure. Arthaud, a member of the Billings County Commission, said he often speaks for increased funds in the western half of the state.
“I lobby every two years to make sure things are right,” he said. “I’m talking to them all the time.”
This is the third boom Arthaud has lived through. He said communities in western North Dakota should be able to enjoy the same lifestyle as residents of other areas, and can if they get a fair share of oil money coming back to them.
“My prediction is you’ll see more,” he said after the meeting.
MBI, the largest hauler of crude oil and water in the region, is looking into closed-loop systems for the disposal of drill cuttings, which often end up in landfills. Arthaud said North Dakota is a well-regulated state, and he would like to see more state-level regulations and fewer at the federal level.
Carlson said the coming legislative session would also review how to handle all of the waste, and who will regulate it within the state without making laws too restrictive.
“It takes reasonable regulations, and it takes good corporate citizens,” he told MBI leaders. “We’d like to pride ourselves as Republicans that we want you to be a good corporate citizen. We also want to have reasonable regulations to protect our environment.”
Carlson added that he and other chairmen on the tour were there to listen and “go back prepared.”
“That’s why the chairmen are sitting here,” he said. “As you notice, all these guys all chair pretty important committees to what happens out west here.”
Faulx is a reporter with The Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207.

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