Mindi Schmitz

ELPC’s Schmitz Represents NDARE at Briefing with Secretary of Energy

ELPC’s North Dakota-based Government Relations Specialist Mindi Schmitz, who also chairs the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy (NDARE), participated in a clean energy business briefing with US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on April 26th in Washington, D.C. Schmitz attended the event at the invitation of the Pew Clean Energy Initiative.

Schmitz was one of nearly 40 business and clean energy leaders from 17 states in attendance at the briefing. In addition to the briefing, Schmitz met with staff from the North Dakota congressional delegation to reinforce the importance of renewable energy development in North Dakota and to discuss federal support for clean energy innovation.

North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy Elects ELPC’s Mindi Schmitz as President

JAMESTOWN – Mindi Schmitz, Jamestown, has been elected President of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy (NDARE).

Schmitz is a Government Relations Specialist working in the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Jamestown office on renewable energy development policies and implementing the Farm Bill’s clean energy development programs.

Mindi Schmitz
ELPC Government Relations Specialist Mindi Schmitz is based in our Jamestown, ND, office.
“NDARE advocates for renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Dakota and the vast majority of North Dakotans support growing the renewable energy sector,” Schmitz said, noting that membership is open to all individuals, businesses, agencies and organizations that are involved with renewable energy and energy efficiency activities.

According to a public opinion survey commissioned by NDARE this winter, almost all (97%) North Dakotans feel that energy efficiency is somewhat or very important and more than one-half of the survey respondents believe that additional energy efficiency and renewable energy projects will create jobs in the state.

North Dakota currently ranks 5th in the US for the percentage of electricity provided by wind power and 10th in the US for installed ethanol production capacity.

“Interest in renewable energy, including wind, biofuels and solar energy, continues to grow in North Dakota.  Consumers and businesses are also increasingly turning to energy efficiency as a way to save money on their energy bills,” said Schmitz.

Other officers elected include Vice President, Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, NDSU Ag and Biosystems Engineering, Fargo; Secretary, JoAnn Rodenbiker, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, Cando; and Treasurer Kim Christianson, Bismarck.  Newly elected board members include Russell Schell, RJ Energy Solutions, Fargo and Zac Smith, North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, Mandan.  Kayla Pulvermacher, North Dakota Farmers Union, Mandan, also serves on the board of directors.

The North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy is a diverse membership-based advocacy organization that works with citizens, industry, government, interest groups, and educators to promote the development and use of renewable energy – including biofuels, biomass, and wind energy, as well as the widespread adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation practices.

For more information on NDARE, visit www.ndare.org.

ELPC’s Mindi Schmitz: N.D. lawmakers willfully ignored environmental issues

The following op-ed was published in the Grand Forks Herald Journal on May 13, 2015:

BISMARCK—The 64th Legislative Assembly of 2015 chose to blatantly disregard a persistent environmental problem facing North Dakota: the flaring of natural gas in the Bakken.

We are getting all of the pollution and none of the energy from a valuable natural resource.

A recent poll shows that North Dakotans want this embarrassing, wasteful flaring problem fixed ASAP.

The poll was commissioned by the Dakota Resource Council and the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club and was conducted Feb. 18-March 6 by UND’s College of Business and Public Administration. And according to the poll, 64 percent of respondents think oil companies are flaring off more gas than they should, while 58 percent support withholding drilling permits until the oil company has in place the means to capture the gas.

Some 65 percent of respondents also support requiring royalty payments to mineral owners for wasted gas.

There were two bills introduced in the North Dakota Senate that dealt directly with the flaring of natural gas.

The first was SB 2287, a bill to amend the North Dakota Century Code by reducing the time a well is allowed to flare from one year down to 90 days. This would have made state law consistent with the gas capture plans that are the foundation of the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Gas Flaring Policy.

For unlike conventional oil wells, Bakken wells generally produce most of their oil and gas in the first two years, after which production drops off dramatically. So, if Bakken wells are allowed to flare their associated natural gas for the first year of production, most of the gas that that well will produce will be wasted through flaring.

However, SB 2287 was defeated on the Senate floor. So today, if push comes to shove and an oil company decides not to follow their 90-day gas-capture plan, the Industrial Commission is powerless to force them to do so because current state law allows flaring for up to a year.

The second, SB 2343, started out on the Senate side as a bill to require oil and gas developers in the Bakken to pay royalties to mineral owners and taxes to the state on natural gas that is wasted by flaring. This would have not only provided a fair return on a valuable asset currently wasted, but also incentivized the capture of natural gas at the well site.

But ironically, almost cynically, the bill was “hoghoused” by the Senate. This means that the bill’s language—which was meant to fairly compensate mineral owners and collect taxes for the state—was struck and replaced with language designed to sabotage the Industrial Commission’s efforts to reduce gas flaring in the Bakken.

The final language in the version of SB 2343 that passed is a kind of code. It attaches a fiscal burden to—and thus, potentially kills—any policy that tries to mitigate the environmental impacts from oil and gas development in the state.

The fact that it is retroactive to one year before the North Dakota Industrial Commission adopted its current gas-flaring policy makes the intention clear.

In the course of missing opportunities, the 2015 Legislature ignored the “will of the people”and showed total apathy toward the environment, North Dakota taxpayers and private mineral owners.

ELPC to Quadrennial Energy Review: North Dakota’s More than Oil and Natural Gas!

Mindi-QuadEnergyReview

 

For Immediate Release
August 8, 2014
Contact: David Jakubiak, ELPC
312-795-3713, djakubiak@elpc.org

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota’s oil-fueled economic boom should not stifle development of a diverse energy mix, mask the losses of wasteful resource flaring, or place North Dakota’s unique special places at risk, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Mindi Schmitz told state, federal and business leaders Friday at the state’s Quadrennial Energy Review.

“This boom is primarily focused on Bakken oil, but there are other energy development opportunities here to diversify the state’s energy mix and broaden the economic expansion,” said Schmitz, North Dakota governmental relations specialist with ELPC.

The Review held at Bismarck State College was attended by a who’s who of federal, state and business leaders from the energy and transportation sector. Gov. Jack Dalrymple was joined U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer. Others on hand included Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council; Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF; and Robert Steede, director of Enbridge North Dakota.

Schmitz noted that North Dakota has the sixth most wind resource in the nation, yet ranks 11th in wind energy production. “There is a substantial and costly gap between the potential represented in the size of the resource and the actual represented by on-the-ground wind development.”

Additionally, she called for continued efforts to end the wasteful venting and flaring of North Dakota’s natural gas resource. While steps have been made, she said, about 1/3rd of the natural gas extracted in the state is still flared. As the number of wells grow,  the amount of gas rises as well.

“In May 2014 alone, operators flared nearly 10 billion cubic feet of gas. That’s enough to heat around 100,000 average homes for a year,” she said.

Flaring, Schmitz said, is taking money out of the pockets of landowners and is costing the local, state and federal government millions in lost tax revenue. “In May 2013, gas flaring cost the state about $3.6 million in lost tax revenue per day.”

Flaring also pollutes, she said, producing huge amounts of harmful, smog-forming nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds; greenhouse gas pollution, including carbon dioxide and methane.

Of particular concern, Schmitz argued are special places on North Dakota that are irreplaceable.

“Flames from flaring obscure what were once pristine, starry night skies and pollution from flaring harms the park’s plants and animals,” she said. “We should not be fracking and flaring within view of Teddy Roosevelt National Park or any other special place.”

Schmitz offered 5 recommendations to reduce risks posed by oil developemt:

  • Adopt standards to minimize flaring from oil/mixed oil-and-gas wells;
  • Promulgate requirements to minimize methane leakage from wells, pipes and associated gas production and transport equipment;
  • Pass more stringent rules for pipelines, railcars and trucks to minimize oil/wastewater spills, and strictly enforce those rules;
  • Require that, where possible, fracking wastewater be recycled, and fund research to increase wastewater recycling; and
  • Bolster protections for special places under federal control, including Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the Dakota Grasslands, and other sites with historical, archaeological and natural resource assets.

“We can have responsible energy development with immense benefits, and provide greater protection for North Dakota air, water and special places,” she said.

North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy Board Members Include ELPC’s Mindi Schmitz

BISMARCK – Kim Christianson, Bismarck, has been re-elected President of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy (NDARE).

Christianson, retired, is the former manager of the Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the ND Department of Commerce and also served as Director of the Great Plains Energy Corridor at Bismarck State College.

“NDARE’s mission is to advocate for renewable energy and energy efficiency in North Dakota.  Membership is open to all individuals, businesses, agencies and organizations that are involved with renewable energy and energy efficiency activities,” Christianson said.

North Dakota currently ranks 6th in the US for the percentage of electricity provided by wind power and 10th in the US for installed ethanol production capacity.

“Renewable energy projects and industries continue to grow in North Dakota,” said Christianson, noting that wind energy accounts for more than 15 percent of the electricity generated in the state.  “We will continue to advocate for state and federal policies and programs that advance clean energy development in North Dakota and across the nation.”

Other officers elected include Vice President Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, NDSU Ag and Biosystems Engineering, Fargo; and Secretary-Treasurer Warren Enyart, M-Power, LLC, Cooperstown.  Other NDARE Board members include Mindi Schmitz, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Jamestown; Emily McKay, Great Plains Energy Corridor, Bismarck; and newly-elected members Kayla Pulvermacher, North Dakota Farmers Union, Jamestown and Joann Rodenbiker, Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, Cando.

NDARE has also retained Riverwind Consulting, West Fargo, to provide coordination services for the organization.  Riverwind Consulting’s President, Patrice Lahlum, will oversee day-to-day operations for the organization.

The North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy is a diverse membership-based advocacy organization that works with citizens, industry, government, interest groups, and educators to promote the development and use of renewable energy – including biofuels, biomass, and wind energy, as well as the widespread adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation practices.

For more information on NDARE, visit www.ndare.org.

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