Two state agencies are set to receive some of the first funds for North Dakota from the federal bipartisan infrastructure law passed last fall.
The six-member Governor-led Emergency Commission on Friday approved $2.5 million in increased spending powers for the Department of Mineral Resources for its program to plug abandoned oil wells.
The committee also approved approximately $1 million for the Department of Environmental Quality to hire four temporary full-time equivalent employees to administer future funding for drinking water projects and to manage new federal pipeline requirements. lead and copper water.
Members of the State House Board of Trustees opposed the initial request for six temporary employees, believing that this discussion was more appropriate for the next legislative session in 2023. The panel reduced the six employees to four so that the director of the agency places them where he sees fit.
Both agencies need final approval from the budget section of the Legislative Assembly, which is due to meet on June 28.
People also read…
Most state agencies are still applying for competitive grants or awaiting guidance on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, according to Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette.
The Legislative Council, the lawmakers’ nonpartisan tax and legal research agency, is monitoring the implementation of the infrastructure package and when and how much North Dakota could receive, according to the Legislative Budget analyst and auditor. Allen Knudson.
An April memo outlines a preliminary estimate that North Dakota could have more than $1.1 billion in potential new funds from the bill over the next five years, in addition to $1.3 billion. billion dollars of regular funding reauthorized to the state in the same time frame. .
The Mineral Resources funding is part of a $25 million grant; $22.5 million will go to the Abandoned Oil and Gas Well Site Restoration and Plugging Fund, without needing commission approval due to an ongoing appropriation already authorized by US law. State.
The program launched in 2020 capped 380 wells using $66 million in federal coronavirus assistance from the CARES Act; 186 wells remain.
The $22.5 million will be used to fund contract work for plugging the wells and remediation costs for the remaining wells, Morrissette said. The $2.5 million is used to administer the program, he said.
North Dakota’s program has become a model for a $4.7 billion national effort covered by the federal infrastructure package, to address thousands of abandoned wells in other states, according to Lynn Helms, director of resources mineral.
“It will be a series of three to four grants that we will come and tell you about; this is the first,” Helms told the panel.
Governor Doug Burgum has raised the issue of the Emergency Commission’s spending cap, limits the 2021 Legislature imposed after tons of federal coronavirus aid passed through the six-person panel in 2020 with little input from the state legislators.
The board cannot approve more than $50 million in total federal funds or $20 million in special funds every two years without the approval of the entire legislature.
The special funds limit was initially $5 million, but the Legislative Assembly approved an interim cap of $20 million last fall after caps raised concerns last summer.
The caps could complicate federal funds expected to flow to North Dakota in future years, especially large sums, and potentially jeopardize competitive grant opportunities, according to the governor.
“I’m sure the intent was well-meaning to somehow ensure that there was proper oversight of the funds, but the ability to receive federal funds that are distributed by the federal government is something that we probably shouldn’t handcuff ourselves compared to other states,” Burgum told the panel.
According to Morrissette, the council has 74% of its federal spending power and 18% of its special funds power remaining halfway through this budget cycle.
The governor also said he “would like to see” Morrissette, as state budget director, be allowed to approve minimum funding requests, such as $5,000 for the public school for the blind that the Emergency Commission approved on Friday.
That amount “shouldn’t be the gathering of six elected officials,” Burgum said. The council includes the governor, secretary of state and four key lawmakers, who met Friday in person and by videoconference.
“We should let the OMB approve these kinds of changes if they are so small, and not have to submit them to the Emergency Commission,” Burgum said, calling his comments a “request for change of authority to the future”.
The Emergency Commission is expected to see huge turnover after the November election, when there will be a new Secretary of State and new Legislative Majority Leaders and Appropriation Committee Chairmen. Burgum will continue to chair the panel.
Contact Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or [email protected]