North Dakota Legislator’s Budget Section debated where the money should be directed
On Oct. 28, the North Dakota Legislator’s Budget Section approved a request from the state’s Industrial Commission. This request contained $16 million to provide grants to oil companies. North Dakota legislators approved this request in hopes to receive positive benefits in the future for North Dakota.
With these incentive grants, the state’s Oil and Gas Division will employ five-10 fracking crews. This $16 million would allow work on up to 80 wells. These wells have been drilled previously but are still uncompleted.
The vote had some controversy as some legislators thought this money could be put to better use for COVID-19 relief. Sen. Tim Mathern said during the Budget Section meeting that there are “other ways to spend that $16 million that are directly related to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Some members of the Budget Section felt that this money would be better spent on nursing homes, human services and education during the pandemic.
With the winter months arriving in North Dakota, citizens are becoming nervous about how the virus will grow. “The consequences of the pandemic will become much more dramatic as we go through this winter,” Mathern said. Many fear that without money for COVID-19 relief, the virus will spread even quicker through these next months.
However, others see this $16 million as an investment into North Dakota’s future. Lynn Helms, Director of the Department of Mineral Resources, sees North Dakota getting a profit from these wells within a year. “We only need nine of these wells to be completed to pay back the entire $16 million within the next year,” Helms said. The revenues from these projects could be used to support programs such as public health, nursing homes and schools.
This also will help North Dakota’s economy in job production. This Grant will provide 150-200 long term production jobs as well as 500-1000 fracking crew jobs. Coronavirus has led to high levels of unemployment in North Dakota, these grants could help to reduce those numbers.
Brad Bekkedahl, a State Senator from Williston, said “we are facing an unemployment disaster out here that the rest of the state is not seeing.” By providing these grants, unemployed North Dakota citizens would receive jobs in the Williston area. These jobs could get North Dakota’s economy moving and bring more money to the state in the future.
Sen. Dick Devers, from Bismarck, stated that this would be a “short term investment for long term benefits.” By providing this grant, North Dakota will see revenues within the next six months, which can be used for coronavirus relief and aid funding.