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North Dakota coal industry distances itself from carbon pipeline project; Lawyers respond to Miller

MINOT – “I understand what they are doing, but at the same time I am aware that there is a better way to do it.”

Those are the words of Jason Bohrer, president of the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council, an advocacy and lobbying group that represents the state's coal industry. On this episode of Plain Talk, he discussed Summit Carbon Solutions' proposed Midwest Carbon Express pipeline. This project has no connection to the coal industry. Rather, it involves transporting the CO2 emissions collected at ethanol plants across the Upper Midwest to North Dakota, where they are buried underground.

Bohrer joined the show to discuss the controversy surrounding the North Dakota Republican Party's resolution branding carbon capture “fascism.” The resolution appeared to have passed at the party's state convention earlier this month, but after a recount it was found to have failed.

But Lignite's larger concern, according to Bohrer, is that the public backlash against the Summit project could lead to general opposition to the concept of carbon capture.

“An individual project is different from a technological opportunity,” he said.

“We will take a long-term view,” he added.

The episode also brought together two board members of the North Dakota Association for Justice to discuss the dismay in North Dakota's legal community that Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller said some ugly things about lawyers in her gubernatorial campaign.

“Politicians and litigators often struggle with the truth,” Miller spokesman Dawson Schefter quoted me as saying for an article about her campaign ad attacking her opponent in the Republican primary. “Kelly Armstrong is both, so it’s no surprise that he lies about his opponent and his opponent’s ads.”

The NDAJ hit back, calling these comments “ill-informed and ignorant.”

Then Schefter came back again. “It’s no surprise that lawyers and politicians stand up for each other,” he told me in response to the NDAJ statement. “While Kelly Armstrong was making money defending drug dealers, a man who beat his wife unconscious, and a man who tried to suffocate his daughter, Tammy Miller was building a business and creating thousands of jobs. Job creator or litigator is an easy choice.”

“Frankly, we were offended,” said attorney Tatum O'Brien.

“Your campaign probably failed,” attorney Tim O'Keefe added, explaining why Miller's campaign launched the attack.

Both O'Brien and O'Keefe are board members of NDAJ and say lawyers do important work defending citizens' rights in court, from Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search and seizure to Seventh Amendment rights, to request a jury trial in matters of civil law.

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Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist and podcast host for Forum News Service with extensive experience in investigations and public records. He covers politics and government in North Dakota and the Upper Midwest. Reach him at [email protected]. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.

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