Fargo aims to replace replica of the Statue of Liberty

FARGO (AP) — Fargo authorities are looking to replace an 8-foot-tall replica of the Statue of Liberty that was stolen last month.
Mayor Tim Mahoney tells KFGO that authorities haven’t had any luck finding the statue and he doesn’t think it will be recovered.
The statue had about 300 pounds of metal that Mahoney thinks could have been chopped up and scrapped. He says the city is focused on finding a replacement.
The statue was presented to the city nearly 70 years ago by the Lions Club.

One man injured in two-vehicle crash near Watford City

WATFORD CITY – A Killdeer man was injured when his vehicle and a semi truck crashed on U.S. Highway 85, 15 miles south of Watford City, on Saturday.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol said Frankie Brown, 27, driver of a 2007 GMC Yukon, received non-life-threatening injuries in the crash. A passenger in his vehicle, a 19-year-old man from Tomball, Texas, whose name was not released, was not injured. The driver of a 1993 Kenworth semi truck, Steven Outcalt, 54, Watford City, also was not injured.
Outcalt was going north on the highway and Brown was going the same direction in front of Outcalt’s vehicle, according to a news release. Brown failed to yield and began a U-turn on Highway 85 to turn back south. Outcalt’s vehicle struck the driver’s side of Brown’s vehicle. Both vehicles entered the ditch and then came to a stop.
The crash happened about 10 a.m. and the highway was shut down for about 30 minutes while emergency crews treated patients and cleared the scene. Brown was taken to the McKenzie County Hospital in Watford City for his injuries. Charges are pending against Brown. The Highway Patrol is still investigating the crash.

Wisconsin leads nation in family farm bankruptcies

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Wisconsin continues to top the nation in family farm bankruptcies.
The American Farm Bureau Federation says that July 2018 through June 2019, Wisconsin farmers filed 45 Chapter 12 bankruptcies. Data show the total was five fewer than the previous 12-month period but still No. 1 in the nation.
In Minnesota, bankruptcy filings increased by 11, to 31.
North Dakota had nine filings, up one from the previous period. South Dakota increased by 12, to 13.
The Journal Sentinel reports that with depressed milk prices besetting Wisconsin’s thousands of dairy operations, the state has led the country in farm bankruptcies in recent years.

Morton Township officials survive recall attempt

BISMARCK (AP) — A pair of township officers narrowly survived what appears to be North Dakota’s first recall at the township level.
Morton Township Supervisor Daymon Mills and Clerk/Treasurer Mary Malard each prevailed by slim margins in Wednesday’s election.
The Tribune reported the recall stemmed from division over a proposed wind farm project. Mills and other township supervisors were participating landowners in the project.
The Burleigh County Commission had taken over Morton Township’s permitting authority for the project because of that. The project ultimately was bought by another developer and moved.

ND court overturns life term in cut from womb case

FARGO (AP) — A judge overstepped by giving a life prison sentence to a man whose girlfriend cut the baby from the womb of an unsuspecting neighbor, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled Thursday, ordering that the man be resentenced.
William Hoehn, of Fargo, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the August 2017 attack on Savanna Greywind, who died of her injuries but whose baby survived. He entered the plea before a jury acquitted him of conspiracy to commit murder.
Hoehn’s girlfriend, Brooke Crews, admitted that she sliced Greywind’s baby from her womb. She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hoehn had faced a maximum of 20 years behind bars for the kidnapping charge and an additional one year for lying to police, but Judge Tom Olson granted prosecutors’ request to label Hoehn a dangerous offender, enhancing his maximum sentence to life with the possibility of parole.
The state Supreme Court, though, ruled that Hoehn shouldn’t have received that designation and ordered that he be resentenced.
Kiara Kraus-Parr, who argued the appeal for Hoehn, called it a “pretty clear-cut case” and said she had been “cautiously optimistic” that her client would prevail.
“I think the state overreached in what they charged, as far the special dangerous offender,” she told The Associated Press
Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste said it was a difficult case to try because there was no dangerous offender case law in North Dakota.
“The Supreme Court has spoken now and given us more guidance,” Viste said. “It’s disappointing for us, certainly, but we accept their ruling. There is nothing glaring that stands out for us that would call for a rehearing.”
The justices said that for Hoehn to qualify as a dangerous offender, his 2012 conviction for abuse or neglect of a child would have to be similar to the conspiracy to commit kidnapping charge. A comparison of the elements of the crime did not support the finding that the two offenses were comparable, the court found.
A new sentencing date should be set in two weeks.
Greywind was a member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and her family has ties to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, two North Dakota groups that traveled to the Fargo area to search for Greywind after the attack. Her death prompted former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to introduce Savanna’s Act, which aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases and create standardized protocols for responding to cases of missing and murdered Native American women. Protesters gathered around North Dakota on Monday, the second anniversary of Greywind’s death, to urge Congress to pass the bill.
Hoehn denied knowing anything about Crews’ plan to kill Greywind and take her baby, but he admitted to hiding the newborn and giving false information to law enforcement to cover up the crime.
Crews testified during Hoehn’s trial that she concocted a phony pregnancy because she was afraid of losing him, and that when he figured out she was lying, he told her she needed to produce a baby. Crews said she took that as an ultimatum.
Crews said she never explicitly told Hoehn what she planned to do, but that when he arrived home to find a newborn and a bleeding Greywind, he twisted a rope around Greywind’s neck to make sure she was dead. A coroner was unable to determine if the cause of death was strangulation or blood loss.

Spill revelation raises questions about North Dakota system

BISMARCK (AP) — The North Dakota Health Department’s acknowledgment this week that a 2015 pipeline leak of liquid natural gas is hundreds of thousands of gallons larger than reported raises questions about how many other spills and leaks are underreported — and state officials were not immediately able to answer Wednesday.
State Environmental Quality Chief Dave Glatt said the agency does not update initial public reports on spills but is considering doing so in the future.
“I get it — people want more information,” Glatt said.
The agency said Tuesday that a 2015 pipeline spill of gas liquids, or “condensate,” at a western North Dakota natural gas plant that was first reported as just 10 gallons (8 imperial gallons) is at least hundreds of thousands of gallons larger and may take an additional decade to clean up.
The initial state report on the spill at Oneok Partners LP’s Garden Creek I gas processing plant was never updated, even as Oneok updated the state on cleanup. In October, Oneok told the state it had recovered 240,000 gallons (nearly 200,000 imperial gallons) of the liquid gas and cleanup continued.
The environmental blog DeSmog, which first reported the discrepancy, reported that the spill may be as large as 11 million gallons (9 million imperial gallons). The blog cited an unidentified person who provided a draft document on a cleanup plan.
The company said the actual amounts of the release aren’t known.
Glatt said the company could face sanctions but has not yet because of its efforts to clean up its site.
“We still have that option,” he said.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, who took office in late 2016, said he was unaware of the spill until reports of it surfaced this week. He said he was not told of the spill because it was not a considered a health or environmental threat and it had been contained.
Under a law signed by Burgum, oil companies no longer must report spills of up to 10 barrels or 420 gallons (350 imperial gallons), if it is contained on site. Glatt said the spill at the gas plant in 2015 would still need to be reported because it doesn’t involve an oil production facility.
Some groundwater was affected at the Garden Creek site, regulators said, but the spill didn’t reach beyond the facility’s boundaries. Glatt said groundwater monitoring wells have been placed completely around the natural gas factory.
Glatt said it is illegal under state law to alter a document, but the agency may create supplemental documents to update estimates on a spill size, something that was not done for the Oneok spill.
Wayde Schafer, spokesman for the state’s Sierra Club chapter, said the state’s current policy of reporting spills “is kind of worthless.”
Timely, accurate and accessible information would hold companies and regulators accountable, he said.
“The public needs to be able to trust these reports,” he said.
Until recently, North Dakota regulators were not obliged to tell the public about oilfield-related spills. The state’s policy changed in 2013 after a wheat farmer in northwestern North Dakota discovered a massive spill that has been called one of the biggest onshore spills in U.S. history.
State and company officials kept it quiet — even from then-Gov. Jack Dalrymple — for more than a week and only disclosed it after questions from The Associated Press. The Health Department subsequently announced it would use its website to publish information on all spills reported to the department.

CEO: Refinery by Roosevelt National Park 1 year behind plan

BISMARCK (AP) — Lawsuits from environmentalists and landowners have made investors skittish and delayed progress another year on the proposed $800 million oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota, the developer’s top executive said. Meridian wants to build the refinery just 3 miles from the park that’s the state’s top tourist attraction, drawing more than 700,000 visitors annually. Environmental groups argue pollution from the factory will spoil scenery and air quality at the 30,000-acre park. “Absolutely lawsuits have cost us time, and fear over the lawsuits have cost us a lot of money,” Meridian Energy Group CEO William Prentice told The Associated Press. “That is a true and undeniable fact.” Meridian began site work last summer, aiming to have the Davis Refinery operating by mid-2021. Prentice said the company now plans to have the factory running in 2022 due to funding and legal setbacks . Securities fillings show the company has raised less than 5% of the project’s construction costs. And the company has two disputes pending before the state Supreme Court. Prentice said the company has raised $40 million and will have all funding secured within months. “We are chipping away,” he said. “We are not Exxon.” Prentice also expects favorable rulings by the state’s high court, saying that the company has “gotten solid wins under our belt” on other issues. The National Parks Conservation Association in March filed an appeal to the Supreme Court that an air quality permit issued by the state Health Department and upheld by a state judge violates the federal Clean Air Act. And last month, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Dakota Resource Council appealed to the state’s high court, arguing developers aren’t being aboveboard about the refinery’s size. North Dakota regulators did not consider suitability of the site because under state law, oil refineries with a capacity of 50,000 or more barrels daily must get a permit from the Public Service Commission. Meridian initially said the refinery would have a capacity of 55,000 barrels, but later lowered the figure to 49,500 barrels, or just under the threshold that would have required critical review and public hearings. State records obtained by the AP show North Dakota spent about $39,000 of taxpayer money defending the two lawsuits. Records show the company reimbursed — as required — nearly $103,000 to the state for its review of the air quality permit that found the refinery would be a minor source of pollution. The state has said the review consisted of more than 1,000 hours of department staff time. Meridian has yet to file for needed building permits in Billings County, records show. Prentice said permit applications won’t be filed until detailed engineering drawings are completed later this year for the 700-acre (280-hectare) refinery complex. The company also has not posted the more than $3.2 million in construction bonds required by the Billings County Commission, said Stacey Swason, the county’s planning and zoning director. The company only has submitted a $260,000 letter of credit to date, she said. Prentice said the required bonding will be posted as construction progresses. Prentice has long boasted the facility will be the “cleanest refinery on the planet” and a model for environmentally friendly technology. He said the company is pursuing similar projects in Texas and Oklahoma. Besides court challenges and the lacking cash and permits, the company is faced with an example of another southwestern North Dakota refinery , the Dakota Prairie Refinery, that couldn’t turn a profit and was later sold. Prentice said the Davis Refinery intends to sell a myriad of high-quality fuels to customers nationwide, compared to the Dakota Prairie Refinery that targeted diesel sales mainly in North Dakota’s oil-producing region. Environmentalists remain wary of the proposed refinery despite the hurdles that remain to building it. “They are touting it as a shining example of an environmentally friendly refinery and it isn’t,” said Wayde Schafer, spokesman for the state’s Sierra Club chapter. “We can’t afford to relax because it sure could happen and we are concerned about its proximity to the park. We are not backing off at all.”

Body found near Dickinson State practice fields

DICKINSON (AP) — Officials at Dickinson State University say a student was walking to campus after football practice when he discovered a body near the university’s practice fields. The body was discovered shortly before 5 p.m. Monday near the large, grassy fields that lie between the football stadium and campus. The individual’s identity has not been released. Vice President of University Relations Marie Moe says Dickinson police are investigating. Moe says that based on available information, officials do not believe the person was a student or connected to the university.

Brine incident reported in Williams County

BISMARCK – About 280 barrels of brine were released in a fire reported at a well site near Alamo Saturday, according to the North Dakota Oil and Gas Division.
The fire occurred at the Schilke 24-21-1H well, about five miles east of Alamo. Whiting Oil and Gas Corporation reported Sunday that 280 barrels of brine were released due the fire. All brine released was contained on location and cleanup has begun.
A North Dakota oil and gas inspector has been to the location and will monitor cleanup progress.

Man charged in Mandan Walmart stabbing

MANDAN (AP) — A man accused of using a needle nose pliers to stab a person outside a Walmart store in Mandan is facing felony charges.
Twenty-four-year-old Hilario Flores is charged with aggravated assault with a weapon and terrorizing. Flores is accused of stabbing a vendor inside the store last Friday causing a puncture wound in the back of his head and a cut behind his left ear that required eight stitches. About 100 people were evacuated from the store after the stabbing.
Police say Flores told them he thought the vendor was a store employee who may have seen him attempting to steal and he was trying to scare him.
A judge set Flores’ bail at $100,000 cash Wednesday afternoon. Court documents do not list an attorney for him.