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HEIDI HEITKAMP: Look to N.D. for America’s energy strategy

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

WASHINGTON — To truly talk about a national energy strategy for our country, we should look to North Dakota.

And this past week, we did.

Last week in Bismarck, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other top administration officials held a meeting to hear from elected officials, experts, academics and the general public about energy infrastructure, particularly from the Bakken. But the meeting almost did not happen.

Starting in April, the U.S. Department of Energy began holding meetings across the country as it works to develop a national energy strategy. The meetings specifically focus on our infrastructure for transporting, transmitting and delivering energy, with the goal of better providing affordable, clean, and reliable energy to Americans.

Surprisingly, when the Energy Department first released the locations it would visit, North Dakota was not on the list. In February, I reached out to Moniz to explain why North Dakota must be included.

We are the second largest oil producer in the country. We are a leader in natural gas, wind energy and biofuels production. And we are a strong coal producer, with nearly 80 percent of our state using it to heat and light our homes.

It only makes sense that North Dakota be a key part of any discussion about the direction of our country’s energy strategy. And after speaking with me, Moniz agreed.

As I’ve said many times, we can’t talk about a national energy policy without talking about energy infrastructure and transportation. At the meeting, we talked about workforce development, infrastructure constraints in the Bakken and ideas to address them and suggestions to respond to the changing energy infrastructure needs in the state.

It was a needed and worthwhile discussion.

While Moniz was in North Dakota, I also brought him to the one-of-a-kind Dakota Gasification synfuels facility in Beulah — a clean coal facility I know well from my more than 10 years working there. It was the first time in 20 years that an energy secretary visited Dakota Gasification.

Moniz has indicated an openness to making sure the United States uses a diverse array of energy sources, including at a discussion on clean coal that I invited him to in June. His visit to Dakota Gasification reinforced a willingness to continue this important conversation.

We then visited Hess’ natural gas plant in Tioga, N.D. In North Dakota, our energy companies aren’t just developing resources, they are also working to make our energy technology even better. Hess is one of those companies, as its recent expansion should reduce flaring at Hess’s Bakken operations by 5 percent to 10 percent — a worthy investment.

I have a long history with energy development in North Dakota, going back to my time as serving as tax commissioner, sitting on the industrial commission as our state’s attorney general and serving on the board at Dakota Gasification. Since joining the Senate, that story has only continued, and I’m fighting for my bill to find a realistic path forward for coal by incentivizing companies to invest in clean coal technology.

The meeting in Bismarck was another milestone. By working together, we can build a true all-of-the-above energy strategy, just like North Dakota is doing.

Heitkamp, a Democrat, represents North Dakota in the U.S. Senate.