Who is Behind “North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions”?

As the North Dakota Senate considers a two-year moratorium on wind energy development, a definitive answer remains elusive.

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A group that calls itself North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has a campaign under way in North Dakota that suggests it is an advocate for more wind energy development in the state. 

More wind power development in North Dakota? Sign me up! I love wind energy, and I believe we should have more wind generation in our state.

But wait…

The pro-wind message is quickly followed by a statement in favor of “all-of-the-above” energy policy. 

In my observation, wind advocacy and all-of-the-above often are incompatible, and sometimes the latter is used as cover to hamstring the former. When I see “all-of-the-above energy policy,” I read, “Drill, baby drill!” “Dig, baby dig!” and “Burn, baby burn!” 

Cynical, I know, but that’s my perception.

After a search for information about this group and its agenda (below), I learned from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office that North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has filed registration paperwork saying it was organized in Delaware, and P. Scott Wilson is listed as its president, secretary and treasurer.

Delaware? P. Scott Wilson?

First Question

North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions ran a full-page, full-color ad in several North Dakota daily newspapers last week. The headline was, “84% of North Dakota voters support continued investment in wind energy.” 

That was immediately followed with, “An ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan requires fair treatment for oil, coal, natural gas, and wind.” 

As it turns out, “all-of-the-above” was in the news just this morning. 

In a story in The Forum, Fargo, N.D., titled, “With near-record growth, wind industry faces stiff challenge in the ND Senate,” Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, “…said she believes in an ‘all-of-the-above energy policy.’” 

Unruh is the primary sponsor of SB 2314, a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on wind energy development in the state. The bill has already passed the North Dakota House, and will be considered by the Senate in coming days, possibly as soon as tomorrow. 

I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but I can’t help wondering…

First question:  Is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions really advocating for wind development, or is this an elaborate bait-and-switch?

Snipe Hunt

When I first saw a North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions post show up on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, urging me to… 

TAKE ACTION TODAY FOR ENERGY IN NORTH DAKOTA

Urge legislators to give the same tax treatment to all energy sources: coal, oil and gas, wind and others. Just click below to send a letter today.

…I was suspicious. 

No, I didn’t click on it.

Instead, I went to the group’s website, where I found next to nothing in the way of organizational information – no North Dakota phone number, no list of members, no statement of who is involved or why, and no explanation of what “…the same tax treatment to all energy sources” might mean in North Dakota

More wariness. I urged my Facebook friends to beware of the group until they knew more about it, who is funding it and what its aims truly are.

Multiple calls to the number listed on the group’s website took me straight to a voicemail. I finally left a message.

An email to the AmericansForAllEnergy@gmail.com address bounced back as undeliverable.

I’ve not been able to find a website for Americans For All Energy; clicking on a link provided through a Google search leads to a page promoting Squarespace, Inc. 

It’s always troubling to me when it’s difficult to find information about an advocacy organization.

So I started thinking… Something’s rotten in Denmark…er …um ….North Dakota.

More Questions

  • Who or what is behind North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions? Who are its members? Are they North Dakotans, or is this an effort by an out-of-state interest?
  • Which individuals, companies or organizations provide funding? Who is paying for what must be an expensive campaign, with full-page, full-color ads in several North Dakota daily newspapers, radio ads and Facebook posts?
  • Who is Americans For All Energy, a national group with which North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions says it’s affiliated? 
  • Why doesn’t the email address, AmericansForAllEnergy@gmail.com, listed on the North Dakota group’s website, go anywhere?
  • For which bills In the Legislature is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions advocating? The website, ndforallenergy.org, does not specify. 
  • What would it mean to treat all forms of energy – coal, natural gas, oil and wind – exactly the same in North Dakota? What would the result of that look like?
  • Is North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions interested in promoting wind development, or is it using that as a red-herring lead message? Is the real aim to give or continue a good deal for fossil-fuel development?

Who, now?

Organizations and businesses operating in North Dakota are required to register with the North Dakota Secretary of State, so that was my next call. While I was waiting on information about whether North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions is registered and by whom, I made several other calls.

Energy advocates in the state – for both fossil fuels and renewable energy – say they either don’t know of the group or have not been contacted by it.

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions, “I’ve never heard of them.”

A call to the Lignite Energy Council was not returned.

Nor has the organization been in touch with the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy, which the chair of its board of directors says she finds “odd.”  

“We have been trying to figure out who this group is and what its agenda is,” said Board Chair Mindi Schmitz. “Normally, contacting organizations like ours would be one of the first steps for a group that’s interested in renewable advocacy in North Dakota, but that hasn’t happened.”

Other groups interested in renewable energy had similar reactions; they had never heard of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions prior to seeing elements of its campaign.

Short on Substantive Answers

The day after I left the message for Americans for All Energy, I received a call back from Tammy Ibach, a public relations professional at LS2group who is based in Bismarck.

She said that, she, herself, is the director of North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions. 

She said the group is not a lobbyist group, and it is not required to have a board of directors.

She said the group is a coalition of landowners and manufacturers, but declined to name any. Names of some of them will be released “later,” she said.

Ibach said the group of landowners is “interested in being treated fairly.” I asked what that meant, what “fairly” would look like; she repeated they “want to be treated fairly.”

She said the group is a 501(c)(4). 

Based on an IRS explanation of 501(c)(4), that means the group must be claiming to be a social welfare organization, such as a “…civic league or organization not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”

She declined to say which bills in the Legislature related to wind are of interest to North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions. 

Ibach did not answer a question about what equal tax treatment for coal, natural gas, oil and wind would mean in North Dakota, or what the results of that might look like. 

In a follow-up email, I asked for more, and more specifics, such as:

  • A list of the bills related to wind energy, land use or tax policy that North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions has an interest in, as well as an explanation as to why.
  • An explanation of how “fair treatment for oil, coal, natural gas, and wind,” in terms of tax treatment, will impact development of those sources in North Dakota. In my judgement, if that’s what the group is advocating for, then it should have a good handle on what that means and what the impacts and implications will be.
  • Specifically, what does North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions mean when it says it is interested in seeing that “landowners are treated fairly”? 

Still Lacking Answers

I have not found a connection between Unruh and North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions. It’s unclear whether North Dakotans for Comprehensive Energy Solutions supports SB 2314 or not. 

But that’s the problem – not much of anything is clear about this group.

Maybe there isn’t anything rotten in North Dakota. Perhaps what purports to be a push for tax policy that encourages more wind development in the state is just what it claims to be.

But I’m dubious. Doubtful, even. 

P. Scott Wilson? Delaware? Americans for All Energy? And whose “social welfare” are we talking about, anyway? 

If I can find any more information, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, call your state senator today and urge them to oppose SB 2314. In addition, please think twice before you “like” the organization’s page, you “click to send a letter” to your state legislators, or you call your state representative or senator. Wait until you know exactly what you’re asking of them, what they’re being asked to support, and why.

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