Dunn County residents submit petition for grand jury to investigate Gov. Dalrymple

WILLISTON, N.D. – Residents of Dunn County want a grand jury to decide if campaign contributions Gov. Jack Dalrymple accepted from the oil industry may be considered bribery.

More than 170 residents signed a petition submitted today that could force the Dunn County District Court to convene a grand jury and consider whether Dalrymple should be prosecuted under Class C felony bribery statutes.

The petition, which uses a state statute that may not have been used in decades, stems from money Dalrymple’s campaign accepted while he was also serving as the head of the North Dakota Industrial Commission.

The petition effort has ties to the campaigns of two Dalrymple challengers in the Nov. 6 election.

Lisa Guenther, clerk of court for Dunn County, said she received documents Wednesday, but they were not yet filed as an official record. Because the documents involve criminal allegations, Guenther said Dunn County State’s Attorney Ross Sundeen will review the documents before they are filed.

Sundeen did not return a call seeking comment late Wednesday.

A report written by two Grand Forks attorneys raises questions about $81,600 in campaign contributions that were accepted in late 2011 through May 2012, the same time Dalrymple and other Industrial Commission members were considering a controversial Dunn County case that involved a large area designated for oil development that included Little Missouri State Park.

The commission gave oil developers a favorable ruling.

Attorney David Thompson, who wrote the report with recent law school graduate Erik Escarraman, equates the campaign contributions to bribing a judge. The contributions came from people who had an interest in a pending administrative case that Dalrymple presides over, Thompson said.

“We’re deeply concerned about the influence of oil in corrupting our political process and extreme amounts of money that are now in play,” said Thompson, who said he and Escarraman are not affiliated with any campaign.

Dalrymple was unavailable for comment late Wednesday after the petition was submitted.

Amanda Godfread, communications director for Dalrymple’s campaign, said Wednesday she could not comment on the petition because she hadn’t seen it. But she said there was no connection between campaign contributions and the Industrial Commission’s decision.

“The governor has a record of transparency and integrity and a record of what’s doing best for North Dakota,” Godfread said. “To suggest otherwise is simply untrue.”

Former Dunn County resident Nikki McAlpin said she submitted the petition to the clerk of court in Dunn County with more than 170 signatures. McAlpin, a former volunteer for Dalrymple challenger Paul Sorum’s campaign, said she delivered the petition because she also has concerns about the campaign contributions.

“We’re tired of the corruption,” McAlpin said.

The petition process started when Sorum, an independent candidate for governor, received the attorneys’ report anonymously, Sorum said Wednesday. Sorum then contacted Thompson and citizens of Dunn County about a petition-initiated grand jury.

A state law that Thompson doesn’t believe has been used since 1929 states citizens can initiate a grand jury process with 10 percent of signatures from the most recent gubernatorial election. Dunn County had 1,670 voters in 2008.

“I’m not saying Mr. Dalrymple is guilty,” Sorum said. “But I am saying that we have some big problems here and if we want to preserve freedom and have real elections, clearly there are some conflicts of interest in these areas and we need them looked at objectively by citizens.”

The attorneys’ report focuses on contributions made by Continental Resources employees, including a $20,000 gift from CEO Harold Hamm, as well as contributions from other oil companies who had an interest in a spacing unit near Killdeer.

Burlington Resources Oil & Gas Co. petitioned to develop nearly 31,000 acres as one large unit as opposed to developing typical 1,280-acre spacing units. Several companies have interests in the “mega-unit,” but Burlington has more than 68 percent of working interest.

The proposal went before the Industrial Commission, which consists of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

The attorneys’ report alleges that contributions the Dalrymple campaign accepted at the same time that a decision on the unit was imminent is bribery, a Class C felony.

Thompson said the bribery statutes say there does not have to be evidence of a quid pro quo to be considered bribery under the statute.

Thompson particularly calls attention to the fact that the decision to approve the unit came eight days after Hamm’s $20,000 campaign contribution. Other contributions he ties to the unit include a $25,000 gift from John Hess, CEO of Hess Corp., and other donations that add up to $81,600.

However, Continental Resources had about 4 percent of working interest in the unit, according to documents filed in the case.

Conoco Phillips, parent company of Burlington Resources, is tied to a $1,000 donation from the Conoco Phillips Spirit PAC.

Thompson said the amount of interest the companies have isn’t relevant under the bribery statute.

Kristin Miskovsky, Continental Resources vice president for public relations, called the bribery allegations outrageous.

“We have a code of ethics policy and we take it very seriously,” Miskovsky said. “It is an absolutely outrageous allegation and totally false.”

John Morrison, the attorney for Burlington Resources and Conoco Phillips, declined to comment about the attorneys’ report.

Sorum, a Tea Party member who recently moved from Fargo to Bismarck, sought the Republican endorsement for governor, but received 478 votes to Dalrymple’s 1,128.
He said the petition effort is bipartisan.

“It’s not Democrats or Republicans. It’s not Ron Paul supporters. It’s citizens who are doing it,” Sorum said.

Ellen Chaffee, lieutenant governor candidate on Democratic challenger Ryan Taylor’s ticket, also is connected to this case.

Chaffee’s husband, David Schwalbe, is a native of Killdeer and his family’s ranch is within the unit. Chaffee said she talked to Thompson about her concerns about how the unit was approved, which led to Thompson working on the report.

Chaffee said Wednesday she is not involved with the petition, but said she is glad the residents made the effort.

“I am deeply grateful to the citizens of Dunn County for insisting that some official review take place of this kind of behavior,” Chaffee said. “I think it took courage on their part and I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Among the concerns voiced by Dunn County residents about the proposal were the timely development for mineral owners and the loss of surface owners’ rights to negotiate where wells and associated pipelines and other infrastructure would be placed.

Forum Communications reviewed the audio for the Dec. 20 hearing when the industrial commission unanimously approved the unit.

Lynn Helms, director of Mineral Resources, recommended approval of the unit because it would reduce the impact to Little Missouri State Park and “minimizes the footprint” of oil development.

During the approximately 30-minute discussion, Dalrymple asked several questions about how landowners and mineral owners would be affected before voting to approve it.

“I think there are a few things that make this situation unique. Not the least of which is the opportunity to preserve the viewscape around the Little Missouri River,” Dalrymple said during the hearing. “But I certainly am not voting for it with the idea that this is a model or a precedent for other situations.”

Bob and Candyce Kleemann, who attended the hearing and were among people who wrote letters opposing the spacing unit, said creating the mega-unit took away surface owners’ rights.

“I’m a Republican but I’m going to vote for Ryan this time,” Bob Kleemann said this week. “He (Dalrymple) took the rights away from the people who live in that 31,000 acres.”

Thompson said he emailed his document to U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon on Oct. 8. Purdon confirmed this week that his office received the document, but he said he could not comment further.

“The Department of Justice does not ordinarily confirm or deny the existence of an investigation and we will not do so in this matter,” Purdon said.

 

About the petition law
North Dakota law spells outs how county residents can use a petition to convene a grand jury. The petition must be signed by eligible voters, with at least as many signatures as 10 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the most recent general election. Dunn County had 1,670 voters in 2008, meaning 167 signatures were required.

What the North Dakota Century Code says about grand juries:

29-10.1-02 When grand jury may be called
No grand jury may be drawn, summoned, or convened in any county within the state unless the district judge thereof shall so direct by a written order filed with the clerk of the court in the county wherein the said grand jury is required to attend. Any judge of the district court for any county must direct, in the manner herein provided, that a grand jury be drawn and summoned to attend whenever:
1.       The judge deems the attendance of a grand jury necessary for the due enforcement of the laws of the state;
2.       The board of county commissioners of the county wherein the court is to be held, in writing, requests the judge so to do; or
3.      A petition in writing requesting the same is presented to the judge, signed by qualified electors of the county equal in number to at least ten percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor of the state at the last general election.

UND proposes expanded oil degree in Williston

University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley’s state of the university address included some news for Williston. In case you missed it, this is the story from my Grand Forks Herald colleague Jennifer Johnson:

 

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – A branch of UND’s petroleum engineering program may go west as part of an effort to expand the university’s presence across North Dakota.

President Robert Kelley said during his annual State of the University address Tuesday that the College of Engineering and Mines is proposing to offer a bachelor’s degree in the west with help from Williston State College.

He said he expects to seek funding for the program from the Legislature. “I hope you stay tuned as we develop more and more pieces of that.”

Kelley also acknowledged the College’s new geology school, made possible by a $10 million gift from oil billionaire Harold Hamm earlier this year. His support will help cover new equipment, faculty pay, student scholarships and a virtual library at the school.

Several faculty members gathered inside the sleek Gorecki Alumni Center, first unveiled earlier this month, to hear Kelley talk about the university’s innovation, new programs and the upcoming legislative session.

Budget changes

Performance expectations for UND and other institutions may change, he warned. A percentage of the university’s state funding could be based on the number of graduates, how long it takes them to complete their degrees and how many state goals they achieve, he said.

“I urge you to pay attention to the conversations during the legislative session, and I urge you to pay very close attention to the governor’s address and his recommendations,” he said.

“You will hear more about these funding models going forward.”

Looming federal budget cuts could also affect UND’s state funding, which makes up 25 percent of the university’s total budget.

“The reality is, we have about five weeks of congressional action before we hit a fiscal cliff,” Kelley said. “We have to anticipate a certain reduction in that revenue.”

During the 2013 legislative session, UND will be asking for $18.25 million to fund operations and certain “priority” programs such as aerospace engineering.

Thanks offered

Kelley also praised other university achievements, such as the introduction of a first-year experience program and the opening of UND’s Collections Gallery at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks.

Most of all, he said, he gave thanks to faculty, staff and students.

“UND is a very vibrant, diverse, complex university that derives its vitality from its staff and students,” he said. “It’s a contemporary, large research university with the heart and soul of a liberal arts college.”

 

Hoeven names former Valley City administrator to Oil Patch post

Jon Cameron

WILLISTON, N.D. – Sen. John Hoeven has added a full-time staff member in Williston to serve constituents of western North Dakota.

Hoeven today named Jon Cameron, the former city administrator for Valley City, to be his western North Dakota field representative.

Hoeven, who got to know Cameron well during the 2009 flood, said Cameron has a proven track record of serving the public and working with local, state and federal agencies.

Hoeven said he believes he is the first member of the federal delegation to have a full-time staff person in western North Dakota. Hoeven said he will have dialog with his colleagues in the delegation about adding similar positions.

“To do the best possible job, I feel we need someone here in the energy patch full-time,” Hoeven said.

Cameron resigned from the Valley City post in October 2011 after some political turmoil involving the former police chief. Voters defeated an effort to eliminate Cameron’s job, but Cameron said at the time he wanted to resign to allow the city to heal.

Cameron then worked as city manager in Perry, Okla., but he said today that he missed North Dakota.

Cameron has also held executive and administrative posts in Florida and Texas.

Cameron’s wife, Joan, who has a background in geographic information systems and mapping, will work for Williston’s public works department as an engineering technician.

They are moving into a house in Williston today.

“We decided North Dakota was where we wanted to be,” Cameron said.

Bakken Investor Connection scheduled for December

MINOT, N.D. – An event to connect real estate investors and developers interested in doing business in the Bakken is planned for Dec. 4-5 at the Sleep Inn in Minot.

The Bakken Investor Connection will provide informational market updates and a forum to network and conduct business.

The event is organized by DAWA Solutions Group, which also sponsors an investor conference, housing summit and trade show.

For more information or to register, visit www.BakkenInvestorConnection.com.

Faces of the Boom: Couple saves 102-year-old North Dakota schoolhouse

Mary and Mark Pettersen are preserving the Twin Butte schoolhouse near Williston, N.D., and plan to make it their home. The Minnesota couple moved to Williston nearly two years ago to expand their business, Coates RV. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

WILLISTON, N.D. – Mark and Mary Pettersen could have built a conventional home near Williston. But the Pettersens are not conventional.

The Forest Lake, Minn., couple who moved to Williston about 1½ years ago to open a new location of their RV dealership fell in love with an abandoned schoolhouse they discovered while taking a Sunday drive around Williston.

“We would just go driving and looking at the scenery and we were amazed at all the different old buildings that there are around,” said Mary, 60.

Mark, 62, who co-owns Coates RV with his niece, Sarah Coates Lange, said he was thinking about retiring but decided moving to Williston to sell temporary housing would be more fun.

“We found the people here to be very nice,” Mark said. “We decided to put some roots down.”

The Pettersens tracked down property owner Lyle Langseth to inquire about the schoolhouse and the possibility of moving it and restoring it to be their home.

“It looked like it was at least possible to move it and work with it without doing much structurally,” Mark said.

Langseth, 71, said the schoolhouse, which he believes to be 102 years old, had recently been targeted by vandals and he agreed to give it to the Pettersens for free if they moved it.

“I wanted to see something done with it,” Langseth said.

Mark and Mary Pettersen discovered the Twin Butte schoolhouse while taking a Sunday drive southeast of Williston, N.D. They tracked down property owner Lyle Langseth, who said they could have it for free if they moved it. Photo by Mary Pettersen

Moving the schoolhouse would turn out to be an ordeal, but the even bigger challenge was finding a piece of land.

After several attempts that didn’t work out, the Pettersens found a three-acre parcel of land about 10 miles northwest of Williston. The Pettersens liked the remote spot near trees and wildlife.

Mary said the schoolhouse was becoming surrounded by oil development at its original location.

“I felt like we were rescuing it and bringing it back out on the prairie,” Mary said.

Moving the schoolhouse 20 miles required a 40-mile route to avoid going through Williston.

The process began on Sept. 22 when the steeple was removed so the schoolhouse could fit under power lines during the move.

The Twin Butte School is removed from its original foundation on Sept. 25. Photo by Mary Pettersen

Oct. 9 was the big moving day, which involved having crews raise power lines along the way, directing truck traffic and getting stuck on a bridge.

Oct. 16, exactly a year from the day Mary photographed the schoolhouse during their Sunday drive, the schoolhouse was placed on its new foundation.

Crews are already removing shingles and working on the walk-out basement . Mark said he thinks they’ll be able to move in this year.

The Twin Butte School No. 1 had its first teacher in 1912-13, according to The Wonder of Williams, a book by the Williams County Historical Society. The last teacher hired before the district dissolved in 1950 was Cora Langseth, Lyle Langseth’s mother.

Lyle Langseth said he attended the school for three years until it closed. He recalls that his brother Eugene, who attended all eight grades there, would go to school at 6 a.m. to start the furnace.

Bob Bartz, the landowner who sold them property, learned last week that his mother, who was a special reading teacher who traveled to various schools, taught in the building, which still has faint writing of “Twin Butte School” above the door.

The writing “Twin Butte School” can still be seen above the door in the schoolhouse. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

The Pettersens say they’re happy to be preserving a piece of history. Mark’s father taught in one-room schoolhouses in Becker, Minn., and Farmington, Minn.

The Pettersens said many have questioned why they didn’t just build a new home. The moving costs alone were $9,500, they said.

But the traditional route just wouldn’t fit their personality.

In 1998, the couple built a log home near Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota that was only accessible by water. They had to get materials over by barge and a pulley system.

“Compared to that, this is a piece of cake,” Mark said.

Dakota Resource Council: Oil Patch residents want voice in legislation

Brenda Jorgenson, center, a farmer and rancher near White Earth, N.D., speaks on a panel about impacts of oil development during the Dakota Resource Council’s annual meeting Saturday in Bismarck. Cedar Gillette, left, of New Town, N.D., and Donny Nelson, right, who farms and ranches near Keene, N.D., also were panelists. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

BISMARCK – Brenda Jorgenson wasn’t used to being a public speaker or environmental advocate.

But the third-generation farmer and rancher near White Earth, N.D., is becoming one as she works to prevent oil development from harming the White Earth Valley for future generations.

“I’ve learned that I have to because I feel that I’ve been called to be a steward of the land that we’ve been privileged to farm and ranch,” she said.

Jorgenson and two other residents in the epicenter of North Dakota’s oil development spoke about the impacts Saturday during the Dakota Resource Council’s annual meeting in Bismarck.

During the meeting, themed “Build a Better Bakken,” members passed a resolution to work with legislators to direct at least 40 percent of local oil tax revenue back to the impacted communities.

Members also plan to support legislation directing a minimum of $10 million from the Resources Trust Fund for programs that support energy efficiency, energy assistance and renewable energy.

Residents of the oil-impacted communities need to be heard during the legislative session, said panelist Cedar Gillette, a New Town, N.D., resident.

“We need a voice and we need a voice in legislation,” Gillette said. “Everything is not ‘Rocking the Bakken.’”

Donny Nelson, a farmer and rancher near Keene, N.D., said his greatest concern is the millions of gallons of water being taken out of aquifers for hydraulic fracturing.

“I don’t think we have the right to use that water like that,” Nelson said. “The future generations are going to be the ones that suffer.”

Nelson also raised concerns about flaring of natural gas, and several in attendance said the North Dakota Industrial Commission should do more to restrict flaring and stop wasting the natural resource.

Jorgenson, who has an oil well 800 feet from her home, said the flare is noisy.

“Some days it sounds like a jet engine right outside,” she said.

But it’s even worse when the flare goes out because “we get terrible smells and it infiltrates the house, the yard,” Jorgenson said.

Gillette said residents of the Fort Berthold Reservation are “trampled” by oil impacts like housing shortages, cost of living increases, dangerous truck traffic and increased crime.

“Our sense of public safety is gone. We don’t know who’s around us,” Gillette said. “It just feels like we’re surrounded by this chaos and we don’t know what’s going on.”

Residents are so overwhelmed by the everyday impacts that it’s difficult for them to attend public hearings or educate themselves on environmental issues, Gillette said. Agencies should notify the public about hearings and put the information in plain language, “not just so a scientist can read it,” Gillette said.

Jorgenson said it’s difficult to find out about hearings to approve permits related to oil and gas development.

“For a person to object, how do you know?” Jorgenson said. “I can’t believe the rigmarole it takes to try to find that out.”

Dakota Resource Council plans Bakken discussion

BISMARCK – Two ranchers and a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes will lead a panel discussion Saturday on oil development and what can be done to improve living and working conditions in the Bakken.

The discussion, part of the Dakota Resource Council’s annual meeting, is from 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the AmVets Club, 2402 Railroad Ave., Bismarck.

Speakers are Donny Nelson, a McKenzie County farmer and rancher, Brenda Jorgenson, a Mountrail County farmer and rancher, and Theodora Bird Bear, who lives and works on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

The theme of the Dakota Resource Council’s 35th annual meeting is “Build a Better Bakken.” For more information, call (701) 224-8587.

$2.5 million in grants awarded to oil-impacted counties

BISMARCK – The North Dakota Board of University and School Lands Board today awarded $2.5 million in energy impact grants to help fund affordable housing for teachers and enhance public safety in the Oil Patch.

The grants are part of the state’s $135 million Energy Impact Grant Fund created to address impacts from rapid oil and gas development.

Six school districts will receive dollars for teacher housing. Other grants will support school renovations, dust control, a road overlay, security surveillance, increased signage for student safety and modifications to a jail to accommodate more inmates.

For a complete list of the awards, visit www.nd.gov/energyimpact.

The Land Board is expected to award another $2.5 million in grants in December.
“We will continue working with local officials and community leaders to meet the region’s current and long-term needs,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who is chairman of the Land Board, said in a news release.

Efforts to encourage oil workers to vote questioned

WILLISTON, N.D. – Reading in the online Huffington Post about Republicans’ efforts to get transient oil workers to vote in North Dakota got my attention this week and the attention of many around the state.

But I really took notice when I looked at the photo of the so-called National Republican Senatorial Committee operative who’s informing oil workers how to vote in North Dakota.

The photo shows 12 people sitting in Williston City Hall for a press conference, and I’m in the second row.

It’s unclear who in the photo they’re trying to identify as the operative, but I can safely tell you that it’s not me. (While I’m at it, I’ll also tell you that I’m not related to our Republican governor.)

Most people pictured are city officials, another reporter and a few people I recognize as either developers or builders, though I’m unsure of everyone’s occupation. If one of them is a political operative, he or she wasn’t doing much operating that day. It was not a “local political meeting” as the HuffPost anonymous source reports. It was a presentation from an economist who did a study on the economic impact of building housing in Williston.

The HuffPost story calls GOP voter outreach efforts in western North Dakota aggressive, focusing on efforts to get workers living in RV camps and temporary housing to vote.

The story highlights messages the North Dakota Petroleum Council has sent to its members encouraging employees to vote. One email directed people to the Brighter Future Alliance, a group the HuffPost calls into question in their story.

The Brighter Future Alliance is a nonprofit and nonpartisan voter education effort, said Shane Goettle, who was one of five GOP competitors for the party’s U.S. House endorsement.

The organization has distributed ads in laundromats, hotels, restaurants and bars with voter education information, Goettle said.

Odney Advertising, Goettle’s employer, is retained to manage the effort, Goettle said.

Goettle also has a super PAC, or political action committee, called the Brighter Future Fund.

But Goettle says despite their similar names, they are separate groups with separate boards of directors.

Brighter Future Alliance focuses on getting voter information to people who may live in temporary housing but intend to stay in North Dakota. Goettle cited a family he knows who lives in an RV because they’ve been unable to find permanent housing.

“That’s the kind of person that we’re targeting,” Goettle said. “We only want those who are eligible to vote.”

Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign, which emailed the HuffPost story to North Dakota news media, isn’t buying that Brighter Future Alliance is nonpartisan.

“It defies logic and common sense that a former statewide Republican candidate running an organization housed in an ad agency that caters to Republican political candidates is somehow nonpartisan,” said Brandon Lorenz, of Heitkamp’s campaign.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said his organization directed people to the Brighter Future Alliance because staff members thought it was a simpler way to get the information. The messages also had links to the Secretary of State and county auditor websites.

“I think it’s kind of peculiar that people would even question the encouragement of others to vote,” Ness said.

The emails told people how to report their addresses if they live in temporary housing. The messages from the Petroleum Council did not promote any candidate or political party. Candidates from both parties spoke at the council’s recent annual meeting.

“If we wanted to endorse people, we would endorse them,” Ness said.

In an interview with Forum Communications on Wednesday, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger didn’t doubt that there are efforts to get oil field workers to vote.

But, “we also know that others are making the same type of efforts,” Jaeger said, whose office handles elections, including absentee and early voting.

He said all parties and special interest encourage people to vote, especially those they see as sympathetic to their cause.

“It isn’t any single group, it is multiple groups,” Jaeger said.

He noted that voting in more than one state, whether you are an oil field worker or a college student, is a federal offense. The three keys are to voting legally in North Dakota, where there is no registration, is being a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old and a resident for at least 30 days before the Nov. 6 election.

“We have well-run elections with a great deal of integrity,” he said.

Now will the “political operative” please stand up?

Williston area will add six new substations today as electrical demand expected to triple by 2032

Contractors from Anderson & Wood Construction of Idaho work on a transmission line project Tuesday near Williston, N.D., for Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative. Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications

WILLISTON, N.D. – When the Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative turns on six new substations today, it is a sign of things to come as electrical demand is expected to triple in the Oil Patch.

A forecast released Tuesday says the 22 North Dakota counties in the Williston Basin will demand 3,030 megawatts of power by 2032, up from the current electric load of 971 megawatts.

The number of oil wells significantly fuels the demand for electricity, along with the related infrastructure needed for each well and the associated increases in population.

The study, which used data from many stakeholders, assumed that the state would have more than 40,000 wells in 2032 under a high scenario, and more than 30,000 wells under a low scenario. The state had 7,701 producing wells as of August.

“When you start looking at just the sheer number of wells, that’s a huge component of the growth,” said Mike Wamboldt, project manager for KLJ, the planning and engineering firm that developed the forecast.

The Watford City and Williston areas are expected to require the greatest electrical load. The forecast calls for a 339 percent increase in demand in McKenzie County and a 232 percent increase in demand for Williams County by 2032.

Stark County is expected to see a 176 percent increase in demand.

The forecast considered infrastructure, such as gas processing plants and compressor stations, that are planned for western and north-central North Dakota. It also considered housing projections and assumed a 52 percent population increase over 20 years.

Officials from Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., which supplies electricity to the urban areas, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, which powers the rural areas, said the independent study validates their internal forecasts.

“It really shows that there are challenges ahead,” said Daryl Hill, spokesman for Basin Electric.

The North Dakota Industrial Commission received the report Tuesday.

Officials from the Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative in Williston were invited to the Bismarck press conference about the study, but said they were too busy to attend.

The cooperative that serves rural areas in Mountrail and Williams counties, as well as the city of New Town, has seen its peak load grow from 30 megawatts five years ago to nearly 200 megawatts today, said Mark Holter, the cooperative’s assistant manager. The demand is projected to be 800 to 900 megawatts by 2025, Holter said.

Most of the growth is attributed to industrial demand. Every oil well requires the same electricity as three farmsteads, said Dale Haugen, the cooperative’s general manager.

The cooperative has brought in as many as 300 workers to help build infrastructure. Fourteen new substations will be operational by Jan. 1, including six northwest of Williston that are being energized today, Holter said.

One substation recently added near Wheelock has a $5.5 million transformer that can provide power to the equivalent of 10,000 farmsteads, Haugen said.

Even with the additional workers, the cooperative is 445 well sites behind.

“We’re just getting after it as fast as we can,” Holter said.

Mountrail-Williams Electric Cooperative added this $5.5 million transformer to a substation near Wheelock, N.D. The 100-megawatt transformer can power the equivalent of 10,000 farmsteads or three cities the size of Williston, N.D. Photo Special to Forum Communications

Wamboldt said the energy forecast will need to be updated every 12 to 18 months. New techniques to recover oil, additional gas processing facilities, oil transmission pipelines and other major infrastructure would significantly add to the power demand.

Basin Electric is building two power plants near Williston and Watford City and planning a 345-kilovolt transmission line to the Williston area.

“It’s our goal to make sure that the lights stay on and the work gets done,” Hill said.