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Minot Daily News - Mathern Calls for More Energy Leadership

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Minot Daily News - Mathern Calls for More Energy Leadership

Jill Schramm

North Dakota needs stronger leadership if it is to achieve its potential as a major energy player, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Mathern said in Minot Monday.

"We are on the cusp of great things for North Dakota. Let's move," Mathern said.

Mathern's plan includes a new refinery funded with private funds or through a public-private partnership. His goal is to develop 10,000 megawatts of new wind power by 2010 and 15,000 megawatts by 2020 by creating an Office of Renewable Power to assist wind resource developers and by working with farmers and cooperatives to get projects off the ground.

"As the world and country are focused on energy, North Dakota could become the nation's economic engine," Mathern said. "However, for that to happen, it takes leadership, and leadership willing to act faster than Governor Hoeven has been willing to act."

Mathern called Gov. John Hoeven's efforts too little to keep up with activities in other states.

"Other people are moving faster, and he tends to wait too long," he said. "There's got to be leadership, and I just don't see that coming from him. I don't know if he's tired or if he doesn't have any more ideas, but there has to be more action and less words."

Hoeven's campaign listed numerous steps the governor has taken in energy development, including:

Established an Office of Renewable Energy and Efficiency within the Department of Commerce.

Developed a $42 million, agricultural-based energy program for wind, ethanol, biodiesel and biomass resources.

Established a transmission authority, which is working with Basin Electric on a $33 million transmission project.

Served as chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and Governor's Ethanol Coalition.

Worked with an alliance developing transmission capacity in the upper Midwest.

Provided state incentives for a Three Affiliated Tribes refinery, a possible refinery near Williston, a coal-to-liquid plant near Underwood and a refinery expansion and upgrade in Mandan.

Established a pipeline authority that has worked with two pipeline companies to expand capacity.

Mathern said despite Hoeven's list, after eight years the state doesn't have a new refinery and has a third of the wind development of Minnesota, which has less resource potential.

Mathern said he would have staff people dedicated to working on oil pipeline and electrical transmission issues rather than depending on contractors who aren't getting the job done.

He would have someone working with rural residents interested in putting up wind turbines to assist them with marketing. He would support financing through the Bank of North Dakota.

More focus needs to be on helping farmers and cooperatives to keep the profits and power in the state, he said.

"Our wind right now is not benefiting North Dakotans as much as it is benefiting other states and other companies," he said.

Hoeven's campaign responded the governor's energy program includes tax incentives for people wanting to erect turbines and that staff of the Industrial Commission, on which the governor serves, are involved with the transmission and pipeline authorities.

Hoeven's campaign also added that Mathern is waffling on his energy position, having previously pledged to spearhead construction of a state-owned refinery.

Mathern said he always has been open to look at all the financing options. Having done so, he said, "I believe that the refinery should be built with private capital. The money is out there."

He said he could favor public partnership with a private entity through bonding, which would be paid off with refinery profits. No taxpayer money would be involved.

Differences between Hoeven and Mathern have been apparent during past legislative sessions. Hoeven's campaign cited Mathern's votes against his strategic plan for energy in 2001 and against tax breaks for new or upgraded refineries in 2005 in questioning the Fargo state senator's support for energy development.

Mathern said he's voted against bills that have fallen short of what needed to be done or that he felt weren't in the state's best interest.

"It's related to what has been good for North Dakota. It's not what has been good for out-of-state interests," he said.

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