Electric cooperatives prepared for ND legislative session
COVID-19 response, budget issues to be addressed
As the 2021 North Dakota legislative session begins, there is no question that lawmakers will be focused on dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing a projected revenue shortfall.
Following the November election, Republicans increased their supermajority power in the legislature to 40-7 in the Senate and 80-14 in the House. Energy issues will also be a key focus during the session, and Cass County Electric Cooperative will be advocating for an all-of-the-above strategy that embraces the state’s abundant energy resources.
Political engagement is embedded in the history of electric cooperatives. It has often been said that electric cooperatives were born in politics and if they die, they will die in politics. Over the years, Cass County Electric Cooperative has partnered with other electric cooperatives around the state to develop an effective grassroots political outreach program to ensure member voices are heard on important energy issues.
Here are three priorities that Cass County Electric Cooperative will be pursuing during the 2021 legislative session.
Support the continued success of the lignite industry
Although the pandemic has created challenges in the near-term, the continued success of the lignite industry is vitally important to North Dakota because of its high-paying jobs, business activity and tax revenue. Besides the economic benefits, Cass County Electric Cooperative also receives affordable, reliable and increasingly clean electricity from lignite plants in the state.
As the lignite industry faces the potential closure of the Coal Creek Station, the largest power plant in North Dakota, electric cooperatives will advocate for areas of state support, including policy changes and mechanisms to help control rising insurance costs.
Advance carbon capture research and development
Electric cooperatives will seek the state’s continued support for the commercialization of carbon capture technology, along with future research and development. North Dakota is uniquely positioned to be a world leader in the deployment of this technology. Minnkota Power Cooperative, Cass County Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power provider, is currently pursuing Project Tundra – an effort to install carbon capture technology at the coal-based Milton R. Young Station about 40 miles northwest of Bismarck. If the project moves forward, it will be the largest carbon capture system on a power plant in the world.
Improve electric vehicle charging opportunities
Electric vehicle fast charging infrastructure has expanded significantly across the state thanks in large part to Volkswagen emissions settlement funds. Electric cooperatives will pursue policy changes that help businesses install charging stations and appropriately bill customers for the associated electricity usage. Currently, state law is unclear as it relates to the resale of electricity from gas stations and other businesses that may be interested in installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.