Fundraisers call for landscaping at governor’s mansion

BISMARCK (AP) — Organizers of North Dakota’s new governor’s mansion are considering a second fundraising campaign to cover landscaping costs after falling $113,000 short of their initial goal.
State lawmakers in 2015 approved up to $5 million in spending on the new governor’s residence, designating $4 million to come from the Capitol Building Trust Fund and $1 million from private donations. The Friends of the Governor’s Residence fundraised $887,000, narrowly missing their goal, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
The group’s fundraising coupled with the $4 million in state money covered constructing the new residence and demolishing the former. But the funding didn’t cover landscaping costs.
Andrea Nelson, the group’s treasurer, said that the organization hopes to get information over the next six months on the costs and timeline to add landscaping to the residence.
The Capitol Grounds Planning Commission has received three landscaping conceptual drawings for the estate, based on the original Capitol master landscaping plan from 1920, said John Boyle, the commission’s director of facility management.
“It’s a magnificent residence but all they really have over there is grass,” Boyle said. “The house deserves something of that quality of landscaping.”

ND regulators seek to fine TigerSwan up to $2M

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota regulators are seeking up to $2 million in fines from a North Carolina company that handled security for the developer of the heavily protested Dakota Access oil pipeline.
The figure is in an Oct. 30 complaint that the Private Investigative and Security Board filed against TigerSwan through the administrative process. The board is also appealing to the North Dakota Supreme Court its recent loss in a civil case it brought against the company in which it sought an unspecified amount in fines.
The board sued TigerSwan in June 2017, alleging that the company illegally operated in North Dakota without a state license in 2016 and 2017, when thousands of people who fear environmental harm from the pipeline flocked to the state to protest the project that is now moving North Dakota oil to Illinois.
TigerSwan maintained that it provided consulting services to Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners that don’t require a North Dakota license and that any investigative work occurred in North Carolina, outside of the board’s jurisdiction.
A state district judge this year dismissed the board’s civil complaint , refusing to ban TigerSwan from the state and concluding that any decision on whether the company should be fined should be made administratively. That led to the appeal.
Board attorney Monte Rogneby alleges in the administrative complaint that TigerSwan had as many as a dozen people in North Dakota during the protest period, working on a range of tasks including consulting, fence engineering, report writing and information technology.
TigerSwan attorney Lynn Boughey said activities such as consulting and putting information in a report don’t constitute investigative or security work under state law. He also called the fine amount the board is seeking “outrageous.”
“They’re trying to reimburse themselves for their foolish decision to come after the wrong people,” he said.
The civil case has cost the board tens of thousands of dollars and forced it to dip into financial reserves and delay payment of some legal bills, according to records The Associated Press obtained last month through an open records request. TigerSwan also is suing the board for at least $135,000 in attorney fees.

North Dakota regulators may amend oil conditioning rules

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota oil industry leaders are pushing to loosen the state’s oil conditioning regulations, but an environmental group is arguing to tighten rules.
The North Dakota Industrial Commission is considering changing regulations adopted nearly four years ago to make Bakken crude oil safer for rail transportation after fiery train derailments, the Bismarck Tribune reported. Under the regulations, companies must remove the most volatile gases from Bakken crude oil to ensure vapor pressure doesn’t exceed 13.7 pounds per square inch.
Companies must report vapor pressure tests to regulators quarterly.
About 60,000 vapor pressure tests have been submitted, and of those, about one in 1,000 exceeded the threshold, according to North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms.
The commission is looking into reducing how often companies have to submit vapor pressure tests to regulators.
The North Dakota Petroleum Council urged the commission at a hearing Tuesday to change the rules so that tests should be submitted annually, instead of quarterly.
Kari Cutting, the industry group’s vice president, said reducing the amount of data submitted to regulators wouldn’t change the requirement to meet the vapor pressure threshold.
“The intended impact is to allow North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources to focus its efforts where they will be the most effective and increase their enforcement efficiency without reducing the oversight of rail transportation,” Cutting said.
But the Dakota Resource Council says the current rules are insufficient and that the quarterly reporting requirement should stay in place.
Scott Skokos, the council’s executive director, said the industry is easily meeting the 13.7 psi threshold, which indicated that “the regulation is essentially not actually doing much.”
“It looks like they could actually be setting the bar a little bit higher,” Skokos said.
Helms said the commission will take action on the oil conditioning regulations Dec. 18.

Overflow crowd for wind farm cancels hearing

BISMARCK (AP) — So many people showed up to weigh in on a controversial wind farm in North Dakota that meeting organizers had to reschedule the hearing to accommodate the crowd.
The Burleigh County Planning and Zoning Commission expected to hold a public hearing on the Burleigh-Emmonds Wind Farm Wednesday night at the City/County Building in downtown Bismarck. More than 150 people filled three rooms in the building, leaving commissioners to figure out how to make sure everyone was heard.
After two failed attempts to broadcast the meeting into two overflow rooms, commissioners decided to reschedule. Pure New Energy USA is proposing to develop the 300-megawatt wind farm with 70 turbines that would cover 15,000 acres about 15 miles from Bismarck.

Companies named for 2 more marijuana dispensaries

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota’s Health Department has selected companies to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Grand Forks and Williston.
The companies were chosen by a review panel. They’ll now be invited to move forward with the registration process.
It’s the latest development in the state’s ongoing efforts to set up a system for medical marijuana, which voters approved two years ago.
Companies have now been named to open dispensaries in Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Williston. Applications are to open in January for dispensaries in Devils Lake, Dickinson, Jamestown and Minot. All eight dispensaries are expected to be operating by next July.
North Dakota law allows the use of medical marijuana for 17 medical conditions, along with terminal illnesses. The state began accepting applications last month from residents for medical marijuana cards.

UND enters regular season finale needing a win — and maybe more — to reach FCS playoffs

By Tom Miller
Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — With one regular season game remaining, the University of North Dakota football team sits on the FCS tournament bubble.
After a wild weekend of surprising results, the only thing for certain is that the Fighting Hawks (6-4 overall) will need to beat Northern Arizona (3-6 overall) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, in Flagstaff, Ariz., to remain in consideration for the 24-team field.
“Being a senior, there’s nothing more that I want than to extend the season,” UND running back Brady Oliveira said. “I don’t want to leave here. I’ve been extremely blessed to play football here. If we go there and get a win and finish 7-4, I think we deserve it.”
UND fans will want to keep their eyes on two other games Saturday that could impact the Fighting Hawks’ chances.
The Brawl of the Wild rivalry — Montana State at Montana at 1 p.m. — features two teams also on the bubble.
Both Montana schools are 6-4 so the winner will move to 7-4 and be on the cusp of the bracket.
UND fans will probably want to root for the Griz because the Hawks should win a head-to-head comparison. The Hawks dominated Montana 41-14 earlier this season in a game in which UND led 34-0 at halftime.
At 3:35 p.m. in Pocatello, Idaho, Weber State visits Idaho State. Weber State is in the playoffs regardless but is playing for the highest possible seed. Idaho State sits at 6-4 after losing in a major upset at Cal Poly last weekend (37-14).
If the Bengals beat Weber State, they’ll likely have an argument for consideration despite only holding six Division I wins. One of Idaho State’s wins was against a Division II opponent.
The typical guideline for FCS postseason inclusion has been seven Division I wins although a few exceptions have been granted the past few seasons.
If Idaho State upsets Weber State, it would be of particular interest to UND fans because if the selection committee compares UND to Idaho State as bubble teams, the Bengals hold the head-to-head edge — Idaho State beat UND 25-21 in Week 3 at the Alerus Center.
One possible angle in favor for UND’s inclusion is the injury status of All-American running back John Santiago.
In the past, the selection committee has claimed to take injuries into consideration when ranking programs.
UND is 6-1 against the FCS when Santiago is in the lineup this season.
UND coach Bubba Schweigert was asked at his weekly press conference at Hyslop Sports Center whether he spends a lot of time breaking down FCS playoff possibilities.
“I really don’t read into it a whole lot,” he said. “After our game last weekend, I did some scoreboard checking to see if things were in our favor. I think some good things happened for us in the big picture.
“We consume ourselves with preparing our team. We have to focus on our preparation and do everything we can to get that positive result on Saturday.”

Basin Electric says North Dakota plant may recover by 2024

BISMARCK (AP) — Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s financially troubled synthetic natural gas plant in North Dakota could break even by 2024 following staff cuts and other cost-saving measures, the utility said.
Basin Electric CEO Paul Sukut recently announced recently that the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah “is in a much better place financially today even than it was six months ago,” the Bismarck Tribune reported.
Plant operator and Basin subsidiary Dakota Gasification Co. has been struggling to compete with cheap natural gas made available by hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken oil field. The plant has suffered about $212 million in net losses over the past three years.
The cooperative experienced a net loss of $57.3 million in the first six months of 2018, well above the company’s $30.3 million loss in the first six months of 2017, according to its latest financial statement.
Utility rate increases have helped keep the cooperative afloat.
More than 300 Basin employees took buyouts in August. The plant also switched to operating at 85 percent capacity, rather than 100 percent, which allows it to meet demand for products and run its fertilizer facilities year round.
Basin CFO Steve Johnson’s financial report predicts that losses will continue at Dakota Gasification from $30 million to $50 million annually until 2024. But the cooperative expects a $550 million improvement over the next decade.
The company said benefits have outweighed losses by $1 billion over the plant’s 30 years in operation.
“While there are still projected losses at DGC, the benefits to the Basin family of having DGC continue to operate are once again greater than the projected losses,” Johnson said.
Sukut said fertilizer prices have risen this fall. He said the company could see a bottom line improvement of $25 million to $30 million per year, if the prices hold.

Mandan police officer who shot suspect cleared of wrongdoing

MANDAN (AP) — A Mandan police officer who shot a man has been cleared of wrongdoing.
The Bismarck Tribune reports the Morton County State’s Attorney’s Office says it will file no charges against officer Leo Belgarde after a state crime bureau investigation into the Oct. 9 incident in which 26-year-old Jared Galusha was shot but survived.
Authorities say they were trying to arrest Galusha on warrants when he drove a vehicle in the direction of officers. Belgarde fired two shots, and one of them struck Galusha.
Galusha earlier had said he was shot once in the back and once in the rib cage as he put his hands up.
Galusha has been charged with reckless endangerment and fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer. Court documents don’t list an attorney for him.

Two western N.D. employers receive statewide honors for supporting employment of people with disabilities

BISMARCK – North Dakota excels in many things, including the employment rate of people with disabilities. North Dakota has one of the highest rates in the country.
In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the North Dakota Department of Human Services’ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation recognized two employers from western North Dakota for their commitment to supporting an inclusive workforce, where individual abilities are celebrated.
The division presented 2018 North Dakota State DVR Employer of the Year award to Pro IT, a North Dakota-based technology company with locations in Crosby, Minot and Williston, N.D., and employees in other states and Canada. Company representatives accepted the award at a recognition luncheon hosted at the division’s annual training conference in Bismarck late last week.
The State Rehabilitation Council and the division selected Pro IT from among five nominees. The award honors a North Dakota business owner or employer for their efforts to support and inspire individuals with disabilities to achieve employment goals and to reach their full potential in their community.
Pro IT was selected because of their willingness to hire individuals with disabilities, including unique communication barriers, who have limited work histories and experience in their industry. Pro IT provides mentoring and encouragement to employees to create an inclusive work environment.
“We are humbled and honored to receive the employer of the year award and are proud to be able to place employees with unique challenges within our company,” said Pro IT owner Steve Kemp. “In a competitive labor market, DVR helps fill positions that you otherwise may not be able to fill and helps pay for on-the-job training. The DVR staff is helpful and supportive to ensure a positive outcome. We couldn’t be happier with our experience and look forward to working with them in the future!”
These other nominees received honorable mention: Cashwise, West Fargo; Dollar Tree, Inc., Minot; Goodwill Thrift Stores, Grand Forks; and Quality Inn and Suites, Jamestown. These employers have established ongoing partnerships with the division and its regional offices and support the employment of people with disabilities.
The division also recognized Goodwill Store of Minot by presenting the organization with the You Make A Difference Award.
This statewide award honors a business for consistently recognizing individuals’ unique abilities, providing work experience opportunities for students with disabilities and actively supporting, developing and inspiring the students to achieve their full potential and reach their employment goals and in maintaining competitive and integrated employment.
The Goodwill Store of Minot has been a longtime supporter of a diverse, inclusive workforce and often serves as a training site for students and other individuals with disabilities. The Minot store was recognized for collaborating with staff from the Vocational Rehabilitation office in Minot and Minot Public Schools to support students who have little to no work experience. They make it possible for students to learn how to be dependable and valued employees and team members who can provide customer service and merchandising support on the sales floor and stock room. Students often progress in roles, responsibilities and wages and are coached and empowered to make decisions.
In accepting the award, Goodwill West Regional Manager Steve Carbno said, “We are excited to receive this award. It’s an affirmation of the work we do with Vocational Rehabilitation in placing persons with disabilities at our location in Minot.”
Acting DVR Division Director Robyn Throlson said, “Our agency is pleased to recognize this year’s business award recipients who are willing to work alongside the division and our agency partners to give individuals opportunities to apply, be interviewed and be hired for job openings based on their unique strengths and abilities.”
“By looking beyond the disability,” she said, “employers can meet their workforce needs. Employees who receive Vocational Rehabilitation support have become long-term employees and have been promoted within their respective workplaces. The division looks forward to helping other employers with their recruitment and retention needs.”
Vocational rehabilitation services help people with disabilities find meaningful work and help employers connect with a valuable, often untapped workforce and retain trained workers whose abilities have changed. Rehabilitation counseling and consultation is available without charge to qualifying individuals and businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.
Services for individuals with disabilities can include assistance with diagnosis and evaluation, vocational counseling and training to identify and reach employment goals, adaptive equipment and restorative services, vocational training and education, job placement and follow-up, and other services.
For information, visit www.nd.gov/dhs/dvr/index.html or contact the division at 701-328-8950, toll-free 800-755-2745, TTY 701-328-8968 or ND Relay TTY 800-366-6888, or via email at dhsvr@nd.gov.

Super weed Palmer amaranth now in 5 North Dakota counties

BISMARCK (AP) — A super weed that can devastate corn and soybean crops has now been found in five North Dakota counties, but a university expert says there is still hope for preventing a widespread infestation of Palmer amaranth in the state.
The aggressive pigweed species can grow as tall as 7 feet and produce hundreds of thousands of seeds. It’s strong enough to stop combines and resist many herbicides.
It’s native to the desert regions of the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, but it has slowly spread to southeastern and Midwestern states and in recent years has moved into South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.
It was first confirmed in soybeans in southeastern North Dakota’s McIntosh County in August, and it now has been confirmed either by extension specialists or through laboratory analysis in Benson, Dickey, Foster and Richland counties, in soybeans, livestock feed and in the wild.
The infestations have been small, with officials in most cases pulling the plants by hand, according to Tom Peters, sugar beet agronomist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.
“We can manage these small fields of Palmer amaranth,” he said. “If we allow it to become established, I think then it’s going to change the way we grow crops in North Dakota.”
A heavy Palmer amaranth infestation can cut soybean yields by as much as 79 percent and corn yields by up to 91 percent, according to research by Purdue University. The threat from the weed is so great that NDSU Weed Science officials named it the “weed of the year” in both 2014 and 2015, even though it hadn’t yet been found in the state.
Officials determined the weeds found in the past few months had a variety of likely sources — migratory birds, farm equipment, a railroad car and livestock feed brought in from out of state. All of the plants so far have been found in eastern North Dakota, which borders states where Palmer amaranth also is present.
The weed has not yet been found in Montana, but western North Dakota could still be susceptible, especially with the large amount of out-of-state hay trucked in during the 2017 drought, according to Peters.
Diligence by farmers, other landowners, gardeners and even hunters is key to diminishing the threat, according to Peters. State Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring has encouraged farmers to scout fields this harvest, and the state Game and Fish Department has asked hunters to keep an eye out.
“I think there’s great hope,” Peters said. “I think we have to continue what we’ve been doing, and that’s be curious, be suspicious. If something looks different on the landscape, ask questions.”