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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he will sign a proposed rule Tuesday to withdraw the Clean Power Plan emission standards...

    BISMARCK, N.D. - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that he will sign a proposed rule Tuesday to withdraw the Clean Power Plan emission standards established by the Obama administration for new and existing coal-fired power plants.

    The Obama-era standards have been on hold since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in February 2016 at the request of 27 states, including North Dakota. The regulations would require North Dakota's existing coal-fired plants to cut carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2030, far above the national average of 32 percent.

"We're grateful to the EPA and Administrator Pruitt for recognizing the Obama-era standards as a federal overreach of the agency's authority. These proposed standards in the Clean Power Plan threaten to erode the baseload reliability of our nation's electrical grid and raise electric rates for consumers," Burgum said. "As the EPA determines next steps, we support allowing states to develop environmentally sound, all-of-the-above energy strategies that are responsive to market trends and promote new technologies to boost energy production and curb emissions through more innovation, not regulation."


    BISMARCK, N.D. - State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said a $28.8 million federal grant will help strengthen reading, writing and comprehension skills for North Dakota students and preschoolers. The Department of Public Instruction was recently notified it will receive a "Striving Readers" grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Almost all of the $28.8 million will be distributed to local schools and agencies over three years to benefit literacy programs that help young children and students in grades kindergarten through 12.

    The grant's terms say portions of the money must be set aside to help children from birth through age 5; students in kindergarten through the fifth grade; and students in middle and high school. Baesler said the grant will benefit students in classrooms across North Dakota.

    Schools or agencies that serve greater numbers or percentages of disadvantaged young people will be given preference for grants. Disadvantaged young people include those in low-income families, infants and toddlers with developmental delays, children with disabilities, students who are not fluent in English, and children who are homeless or in foster care.

    State data says American Indian students and students from low-income families often have achievement gaps in their literacy skills, and the federal grant assistance should help to close those gaps, Baesler said Monday.

    Although the Department of Education has awarded the grant to the Department of Public Instruction, the NDDPI must take some procedural steps before districts may apply for grants. North Dakota law says the state Emergency Commission and the state Budget Section must give permission to distribute the money.  

    The six-member Emergency Commission is made up of the governor, the secretary of state, the majority leaders of the North Dakota House and Senate, and the chairmen of the North Dakota House and Senate appropriations committees. The Budget Section has 42 members and includes both Republican and Democratic leaders in the North Dakota Legislature, and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees.

    The Department of Public Instruction will provide additional notice and information once the money is available for grants to school districts, and will provide instructions on how to apply.


     MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Xcel Energy has proposed splitting its utility operations in North Dakota and Minnesota.
    Xcel says widening policy differences between the two states over clean energy have caused stresses that might best be solved by a breakup.
    But a consultant for the North Dakota Public Service Commission is arguing against the separation. The consultant says North Dakota wouldn't get long-term benefit and customers probably would wind up paying more.
    Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy has operated a single subsidiary for its electrical and gas businesses in the two states for nearly a century.
    North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Brian Kroshus says his panel plans a formal hearing in late January.
    Minnesota regulators decided last month not to take further action for now but to monitor North Dakota's proceedings.


    MINOT, ND - Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Congressman Kevin Cramer and Minot Mayor Chuck Barney were some of the dignitaries on hand Monday for a ribbon cutting in downtown Minot. They were celebrating the completion of a three-year, nearly $35 million downtown infrastructure improvement project that spans approximately 26 blocks.
    The massive project involved fully replacing or upgrading downtown infrastructure above and below ground, including replacing miles of water, sanitary and storm sewer pipes, concrete paved streets, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, benches, trash receptacles and street lighting in areas where some of the infrastructure was between 75 and 100 years old.

    "The completion of this project is a historic milestone for Minot, and it's an opportunity to lead the state and be a shining example of smart, efficient infrastructure - a key tenet of the Main Street Initiative," Sanford said. "This wise investment of state funds enabled the city to make flood protection upgrades that otherwise would have had to wait five to 15 years. Aligning state and federal funds in a way that maximized the long-term investment will result in a time and cost savings to the city."

    The multi-phase project is the largest reconstruction effort in the city's history. In total, the construction, engineering and construction management will cost approximately $34.75 million. The project was funded by multiple sources, including $1.25 million from the State Water Commission, an $18 million disaster recovery grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, $4.34 million from the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery fund, as well as storm sewer and street lighting district special assessments, utility bonds and state surge funding.

    "We are so very grateful for the federal and state support that we received on this project," Barney said. "Without that level of commitment from the North Dakota congressional delegation, the State Water Commission and others, we wouldn't have been able to pull off this project and our downtown public infrastructure would have continued to suffer as a result. Thank you to all those who helped make this a reality."



   (Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)


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