Two advocacy groups are questioning the legality of the state’s new program that funnels federal coronavirus aid to oil companies to reimburse part of the cost of fracking wells, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
The Dakota Resource Council and North Dakotans for Public Integrity sent a letter to both the state Industrial Commission and the Emergency Commission regarding the use of $16 million in CARES Act funds for the program. They allege the state is violating the North Dakota Constitution’s “anti-gift” clause by giving the money to oil companies.
The groups say the Industrial Commission “lacks statutory authority to give these types of gifts to oil and gas operators.”
Gov. Doug Burgum took issue with that characterization at a recent Industrial Commission meeting, saying he rejects “vehemently that these were gifts.”
“It’s interesting they are applying these arguments to one industry and not to all the rest,” he said, adding that the federal government directed trillions of dollars in pandemic relief to health care, education, retailers, hospitality and small businesses. “It seems to me this is an attack on one industry.”