Gov. Doug Burgum today joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler in announcing that the Fargo-Moorhead Area Diversion Project has been invited to apply for a $561 million EPA loan – clearing a major hurdle for a crucial piece of financing for the flood control project. Burgum and Wheeler also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) renewing the commitment to collaboration between the EPA and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), which Burgum chairs.

The loan announcement and MOU signing took place at the Great Plains & EmPower ND Energy Conference at Bismarck State College, with U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford also in attendance.

“This hugely important loan will reduce the tax burden of the diversion project and give assurances to taxpayers, state legislators and the private market that the project is affordable and moving forward,” said Burgum, who advocated for the loan in a phone call with Wheeler last month. “We’re deeply grateful to the EPA and Administrator Wheeler for making this financing available and for signing the MOU renewing the EPA’s commitment to this longstanding partnership between the states and federal government. No one cares more about a state’s land, water and air than the people who live there, and by working with the EPA we can ensure we’re utilizing the best practices and policies to protect human health and our natural resources for current and future generations.”

“It is a privilege to renew and strengthen EPA’s collaboration with IOGCC in North Dakota – a state that has been at the forefront of America’s energy renaissance. The United States is a global leader in providing affordable, reliable energy in a manner that protects public health and the environment, and this MOU will further our progress,” Wheeler said. “I was also pleased to announce that EPA is inviting the Metro Flood Diversion Authority to apply for a water infrastructure loan for a project that would protect hundreds of thousands of North Dakotans from flooding.”

“We’ve worked hard in recent years to ensure flood protection in the Red River Valley can use the WIFIA program to reduce project costs,” said Hoeven, a member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee. “This is an important element of our efforts to build permanent, comprehensive flood protection for the region, and it bolsters the increased funding we have advanced for Army Corps construction as well as P3 projects like this one. We appreciate Administrator Wheeler for working with us and selecting the Fargo-Moorhead region to participate in this program, which represents significant savings to local taxpayers.”

“I applaud Administrator Wheeler for moving this loan forward and demonstrating once again that the Trump Administration is an attentive, responsive administration, meeting the needs of local communities in North Dakota and across the country,” Cramer said. “Our Congressional delegation wrote a letter to Administrator Wheeler urging this action because completing this project means helping protect the lives, livelihoods, and properties of thousands of North Dakotans.”

“Innovative financing programs are at the core of 21st century infrastructure projects like the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion. Federal and local cooperation are vital to protect life and property from catastrophic flooding,” U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong said.

The $2.75 billion diversion project will protect nearly 245,000 people and a vital economic engine for the entire state of North Dakota. The $561 million loan through the EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) represents about half of the $1.1 billion local share of the project. The Diversion Authority estimates the low-interest loan will help avoid about $600 million in financing costs on the project, due to the long-term nature of the loan and the ability to sculpt the payments. Revenue from sales taxes approved by voters in Fargo and Cass County will be used to pay back the loan.

In this third round of WIFIA funding, the EPA is offering $6 billion in loans that will help fund approximately $12 billion in water infrastructure projects. The agency received 51 letters of interest for the WIFIA funding, demonstrating the critical need for continued investment in the nation’s water infrastructure.

MOU signing

The MOU signed by Burgum and Wheeler today renews a joint Task Force made up of EPA and state oil and gas leadership. Working together, the IOGCC’s member states and the EPA will improve communication and cooperation in a way that promotes protection of human health and the environment, minimizes duplication, recognizes each other’s roles and responsibilities, increases efficiencies and enables the exchange of information and expertise. The EPA-IOGCC Task Force was established in 2002 and renewed in 2005, 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016.

Click here to read the MOU. 

Established in 1935, the IOGCC is headquartered in Oklahoma City and has 31 member states and seven associate states. North Dakota has been a member since 1954. The commission assists the state in developing statutes, rules and regulations for the oil industry and provides a forum for communication between energy producing states and the federal government.

Wheeler was the keynote speaker at today’s energy conference, highlighting the EPA’s actions to provide regulatory certainty including the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, the repeal of the Obama administration’s 2015 “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) definition, and EPA’s proposal on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. While in Bismarck, Wheeler also participated in a WOTUS roundtable hosted by Cramer alongside Hoeven, Sanford and other North Dakota state, agricultural and business leaders. Burgum, Hoeven and Cramer also participated in a panel today about North Dakota’s energy present and future.