- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A proposed $150,000 study would examine how Minnesota could leverage the North Dakota oil boom for its own benefit.

The research would not focus “just on the effects (of the boom), but also how we can possibly benefit and position ourselves to take advantage of that,” said Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley, sponsor of the bill outlining the report.

State Senate Tax Committee Chairman Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, laid over Eken’s proposal for possible inclusion in a larger tax bill that could be voted on later during the session.

Some Minnesota businesses already are benefiting from North Dakota’s hot economy. Some companies are helping expand local infrastructure. Others are selling energy-industry items. Still more are providing drilling and safety equipment.

Among the negatives the boom yields is increased worry about rail safety, particularly since several trains carrying crude oil travel through Minnesota. Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, brought up that concern during a House transportation panel hearing earlier this month.

Derailments by trains carrying crude oil occurred last year in North Dakota and Quebec.

Eken said the study would also explore negative effects of the boom. But he repeatedly emphasized the need for Minnesota “to turn our proximity to North Dakota from a challenge into an opportunity.”

Eken said an independent, experienced entity would carry out the research under the supervision of the state Department of Employment and Economic Development. He identified Colorado-based consulting firm IHS as a potential match.

While no panel members objected to the idea, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said it was important the study encompass the effects that human use of fossil fuels is having on climate change.

And Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, wondered whether such a study is a typical method DEED officials use to determine how best to make Minnesota more economically competitive.

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