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5 things to know today: Candidate survey, Covering tuition, LGBTQ support, Largest spill, Carbon capture

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

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Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, presents a bill to the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 16, 2021. Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service

1. Poll floats North Dakota lawmaker as candidate for Fargo mayor

An online poll that circulated over the weekend suggests North Dakota Rep. Shannon Roers Jones could be considering a run for mayor of Fargo, though the Republican lawmaker declined to comment on the survey or whether she plans to join the race for the position.

The 28-question survey obtained by Forum News Service gauged respondents' interest in the prospect of Roers Jones running for mayor of North Dakota's largest city and billed the lawmaker as a champion of law enforcement, fiscal responsibility, tax reduction, criminal justice reform and term limits. The survey's positive portrayal of Roers Jones defines it as a "push poll," a tool often used by political strategists to promote a candidate or idea under the pretense that respondents are filling out an opinion poll.

Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley

2. Facing critical shortage, Minnesota to cover tuition for certified nursing assistants

Zackery Smith on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, practiced speaking with a long-term care patient as part of a 75-hour training to become a temporary nursing aide. Smith is one of the hundreds of National Guard members set to deploy to long-term care homes around the state next week to work as a temporary caregiver. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

Walz administration officials on Monday, Dec. 6, announced they would use $3.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay tuition and fees for Minnesota students working to become certified nursing assistants.

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State health and education officials set a goal to bring 1,000 new certified nursing assistants into the workforce before Jan. 31 to help quell a caregiver shortage impacting the state's long-term care facilities. More than 70% of nursing homes report that they can't admit new residents due to insufficient staffing.

That shortage has also caused a bottleneck in Minnesota hospitals since they can't discharge patients to the facilities. In an effort to ease the strain on hospitals and care facilities, federal medics have deployed to Minnesota, the state has opened alternative care sites and 400 National Guard members trained to relieve caregivers in nursing homes.

Read more from Forum News Service's Dana Ferguson

3. Report finds many North Dakota schools fall short on support for LGBTQ students

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June is recognized as LGBTQ Month in the United States. (Dickinson Press File Photo)

Editor's note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. To access additional resources for LGBTQ youth, go to thetrevorproject.org.

LGBTQ middle and high school students in North Dakota have thoughts of suicide and experience bullying and discrimination more often than the state's cisgender heterosexual students, according to a recent report from the Community Uplift Program.

The North Dakota LGBTQ+ School Climate Report, created through the Fargo-based Community Uplift Program, combines data from national and North Dakota-specific surveys, as well as a self-conducted survey of responses from 38 North Dakota school districts, to illustrate the environment for LGBTQ students in school and the existing school policies for these students, or lack thereof.

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Read more from The Forum's Michelle Griffith

4. Criminal case for largest oil field spill in North Dakota history resolves with $15M fine, probation

Saltwater Leak
Crews work to recover oil from Blacktail Creek north of Williston, N.D., on Jan. 25 after a pipeline leak released nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater that included some oil. Environmental Protection Agency

A federal judge sentenced the company responsible for North Dakota's largest ever oil field spill to $15 million in criminal fines and three years of probation on Monday, Dec. 6.

The sentence for Summit Midstream Partners was entered by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor and comes three months after the U.S. Department of Justice and the state of North Dakota announced a settlement agreement with the company totaling more than $36 million in criminal and civil penalties and natural resource damages.

Federal prosecutors charged Summit for negligence and violations of environmental laws in the spill of 29 million gallons of produced water — a highly concentrated salt fluid that is a byproduct of oil extraction — north of Williston over a five-month period in 2014 and 2015. The incident resulted in the contamination of land, groundwater and more than 30 miles of Blacktail Creek, a Missouri River tributary.

Read more from The Forum's Adam Willis

5. World's largest carbon capture pipeline aims to connect 31 ethanol plants, cut across Upper Midwest

Midwest Carbon Express pipeline to send CO2 from ethanol plants to western North Dakota

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Spanning five states and involving at least 31 ethanol plants connected by 2,000 miles of pipeline, an Iowa company is poised to make a major investment in low-carbon fuel.

Summit Carbon Solutions, an offshoot of Summit Agriculture Group, is behind the $4.5 billion Midwest Carbon Express project, with the goal of sending 12 millions tons of CO2 annually to western North Dakota, where it can be stored underground. It would be the largest carbon capture project in the world.

The company already has held a series of public meetings in Iowa and is reaching out to landowners along its proposed route. But it has yet to apply for a permit in any of the five states: Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota. That will likely happen sometime in the first quarter of 2022, says Jake Ketzner, vice president of governmental affairs with Summit Carbon.

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