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ND energy panel suggests $1B for roads, bridges

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm •  Published: August 14, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A group representing North Dakota's various energy sectors is recommending the state spend almost $1 billion over the next two years on roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

The 16-member EmPower North Dakota Commission also urged lawmakers Thursday to pass legislation within the first month after the 2015 Legislation begins in January so projects in western North Dakota's oil-producing region can be started by spring, when the state's construction season typically starts.

The panel, led by state Commerce Commissioner Al Anderson, is comprised of representatives from a cross-section of the energy industry, including members representing coal, oil, refining, biofuels and electricity. The group was established by the Legislature in 2007 to set the state's energy policy.

Anderson told the Legislature's interim Energy Development and Transmission Committee that infrastructure needs and a shortage of workers are the biggest challenges facing North Dakota's energy sector. The state has more than 25,000 unfilled jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at less than 3 percent.

"It's exciting to be in North Dakota," Anderson told lawmakers. "But it isn't without its challenges."

North Dakota state government runs on a two-year budget. EmPower panel member Ron Ness, who also is president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said told lawmakers they have made "substantial progress" funding needs for areas impacted by energy development by investing $2.5 billion in the region during the current budget cycle, or about double the amount in the previous biennium.

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