KHRT ND News – 10/30/21

KHRT NEWS – SATURDAY – 103021 – 0700
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday called a fall special session to deal with a limited agenda that includes legislative redistricting and the approval of a spending plan for federal coronavirus relief aid. The Nov. 8 special session approved by the governor through an executive order has no time restriction and may last indefinitely, though legislative leaders said they hoped it would only last five days. Republican Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner and GOP House Majority Leader Chet Pollert have been meeting with Burgum in recent weeks to discuss the possibility of a special session. They joined the governor at the Capitol in announcing the special session Friday.
The North Dakota Constitution limits the Legislature to 80 days of meetings every two years, and last spring’s regular session used 76 days. That means if the GOP-led Legislature had called itself back into session, lawmakers would have had to shoehorn the redistricting job, coronavirus spending and other proposed legislation into just four days. Each of those subjects would take a minimum of three legislative days to be approved by both chambers of the Legislature.
The GOP leaders said all of the Legislature’s pending business could have been accomplished during a reconvened session though they preferred the special session. “We’re thankful for a special session and not reconvened,” Wardner said. Pollert said the special session would be “efficient but expedited.” Had the Legislature called itself into session, a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate would be required for the new redistricting plan and other legislation to take effect quickly. Any legislation during a special session could take effect immediately upon being approved by a majority vote.
More than two dozen bills have been submitted ahead of the session, though details of the legislation, and sponsors, won’t be revealed until the bills are approved for introduction, which would happen shortly ahead of the special session. Legislative leaders and other lawmakers have signaled that some of the bills are aimed at preventing vaccine mandates and banning the teaching of certain concepts of race and racism, known as “critical race theory.” Legislative leaders said none of the bills reflected Burgum’s plan to use some of the state treasury’s surpluses to offset income taxes, despite the governor continuing the pitch on Friday. Any bills that are introduced will have to first win the endorsement of the House or Senate’s delayed-bills committee. The bipartisan panels both have five members and are controlled by the Legislature’s GOP leadership.
Former Gov. Jack Dalrymple called a special session to deal with redistricting in 2011, and John Hoeven did so in 2001. Legislators make $189 daily while in session. Each day they are in a special session costs taxpayers about $64,000.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Nineteen states are now suing to block President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. One suit filed in Missouri on Friday includes that state as well as Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. A second suit filed in Georgia also includes Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. Texas sued individually on Friday, while Florida filed a separate lawsuit Thursday. The lawsuits argue that the Biden administration overstepped its authority in requiring federal contractors to make their employees get the coronavirus vaccine. Biden has argued that sweeping vaccine mandates will help end the deadly pandemic.
DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) – Police have made an arrest in a shooting in Dickinson Friday. The man who was shot was taken to the hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life threatening. Officials say the victim told investigators that the 30-year-old man drew a handgun during an altercation and shot him. The suspect initially refused to surrender when police caught up with him, but later complied. He was transported to the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center in Dickinson where he was held on possible charges of felony aggravated assault and felon in possession of a firearm, KFYR-TV reported.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – U.S. government regulators for the first time will analyze greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas drilling on federal lands on a national scale, as the Biden administration steps up efforts to address climate change, the Interior Department said Friday. The announcement comes as officials are set to hold lease sales in numerous Western states next year amid a fierce debate over federal fossil fuel reserves.
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management released a report saying oil, gas and coal extraction from federal lands produced more than 1 billion tons of greenhouse gases last year. That’s about one-fifth of all U.S. energy-related emissions. President Joe Biden campaigned on promises to end new drilling on public lands to help combat climate change. But his attempt to suspend new leases – while oil and gas sales underwent a sweeping review – was blocked by a federal judge in Louisiana.
Including greenhouse gas emissions in lease reviews lets the administration highlight what scientists say are the increasing “social costs” of climate change – from rising sea levels and wildfires to public health problems. Democrats and many environmentalists want to factor those costs upfront into lease sales. They argue that failing to do so amounts to an industry subsidy. But the change comes as rising energy prices expose the administration to sharp attacks from Republicans. Emissions have been declining in the U.S. as power plants switch from burning coal to natural gas. Placing more obstacles to development will hurt both the petroleum industry and U.S. economy, Republicans say.
Environmental assessments that include a greenhouse gas analysis will be released in coming days for lease sales planned early next year in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and other states, administration officials said.
New land bureau director Tracy Stone-Manning, who underwent a bitter confirmation fight, said the agency wants to develop public lands responsibly and make sure climate impacts are considered. “We will continue to exercise the authority and discretion provided under law to conduct leasing in a manner that fulfills the Interior Department’s legal responsibilities,” Stone-Manning said in a statement.
The ranking GOP member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Wyoming’s John Barrasso, said in response to Stone-Manning’s announcement that the added scrutiny of leases would “hamstring American energy.” “Tracy Stone-Manning and the Bureau of Land Management want to build new regulatory road blocks for oil and gas leasing on America’s federal lands,” Barrasso said. “This draft plan will result in less American energy production, fewer jobs for energy workers, and more frivolous lawsuits from environmental activists.”
Some parcels that had been nominated by companies for sale were deferred and won’t be offered, officials said, citing concerns including potential impacts to struggling populations of a bird, the greater sage grouse. They did not immediately respond to requests for specifics on the size and location of those parcels.
Federal agencies have previously conducted reviews of potential greenhouse gas impacts from individual lease sales across the U.S. West following court orders. Officials in many cases concluded the emissions were miniscule on a global scale. But environmentalists have long maintained those reviews were too narrow and ignored the cumulative impact of huge tracts of public lands in multiple states and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico being leased for oil, gas and coal extraction. The Interior Department in August determined it was not going to do further climate impact studies on a Gulf of Mexico sale that is scheduled next month, covering roughly 136,000 square miles offshore.
Andrew Black with the National Wildlife Federation said including the full costs of energy development was crucial to understanding its impacts. “You’re looking at this not just as an environmental issue, but what the climate effects are on communities that are encountering devastating droughts, fires, flooding,” said Black, who worked for Stone-Manning at the federation before she joined the administration.
The oil and gas industry will keep pushing for lease sales to be held this year, said Kathleen Sgamma with the Western Energy Alliance, an industry group. A second lawsuit against the Biden administration is pending before a federal judge in Wyoming. “It will be litigated how they use the social cost of carbon,” Sgamma said. “That’s going to affect regulation all throughout the government, not just in this case.”
(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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