Monday, November 07, 2016

New North Dakota governor to be saddled with oil bust, pipeline protest

UPDATE,(InsideClimate News graphic)
UPDATE, Nov. 9: Doug Burgum easily won the governor's seat on Tuesday, securing 77 percent of the vote. Nelson had 19 percent and Riske 4 percent.

When North Dakota elects a new governor on Tuesday, the winner will be thrust right into the political fire, Mike Lee reports for Energywire. "The oil bust has cut state revenues by about one-fourth in the last 18 months and more bad fiscal news could be coming. And a series of protests over the Dakota Access pipeline have pitted Native Americans and environmentalists against police and sheriff's deputies in the eastern part of the state."

The leading candidate is Doug Burgum, a Republican multimillionaire who 15 years ago sold his software company for $1.1 billion to Microsoft Inc., Lee writes. Burgum is heavily favored to win against Democrat Marvin Nelson and Libertarian Marty Riske. Burgum, a native North Dakotan raised on a farm, "jumped into the governor's race after Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) opted not to run for another term. He beat state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who has held various state offices since 1976, and two other candidates in the Republican primary in June."

"A month after the primary election, Dalrymple was forced to call a special session of the Legislature to cope with the downturn in the oil industry," Lee writes. "The drop in oil prices has left North Dakota's revenue about 25 percent below what was projected for the current two-year budget cycle. When legislators arrived in Bismarck for the session in August, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe erected a teepee on the lawn in front of the Capitol to protest the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline."

The $3.8 billion, 1,150-mile Dakota Access pipeline is expected to carry as much as 570,000 barrels of Bakken Formation crude from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it fears a leak could contaminate its main source of water, the Missouri River.

"In September, the Obama administration blocked construction of the pipeline across Lake Oahe on the Missouri River while the Army Corps of Engineers determined whether it should reconsider its decision allowing the project to cross over the river," Lee writes. Obama said last week that the Army Corps is considering an alternate route for the pipeline that would avoid crossing the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

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