BISMARCK, N.D. – Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann today received the North Dakota Republican Party’s endorsement to serve another term in the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC). The convention took place at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks where Christmann received unanimous support from the convention delegates.
In his acceptance speech to the delegates, the Christmann highlighted the PSC’s leadership in regulating and expanding crucial services in the state of North Dakota, including gas and electric utilities.
“We all like low rates, but we also need to make sure the providers have the necessary resources to provide safe and dependable service,” said Christmann. “Well, I am glad to report that in North Dakota our regulated utilities have excellent reliability statistics and some of the lowest residential electric rates in the nation.”
Among the greatest responsibilities of the PSC the past five years has been its work in siting and permitting major transmission lines and energy conversion facilities. The PSC has approved more than $9 billion in energy infrastructure projects, or an average $150 million per month since 2012.
“These projects take trucks off the road, reduce flaring, move our products more safely and more efficiently, enhance revenue for mineral owners, create thousands of jobs, grow our economy and enhance America’s energy independence,” said Christmann. “This part of our job has been almost overwhelming at times these past five years, but we have made sure these investments are built to North Dakota’s high safety standards.”
“I am excited to continue this important work of making our processes even more efficient and effective and to growing this great state of North Dakota.”
Randy Christmann, today, announced he would be seeking re-election to the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC). He has served as a PSC Commissioner since 2012 and is currently its chairperson.
“I have been honored to represent the people of North Dakota as their Public Service Commissioner,” said Christmann. “And I am gratified by the trust the voters have placed in me to serve the public interest.”
Christmann said, “For the PSC, “serving the public” is defined by ensuring consumers get reliable and affordable utility rates, that our state’s commercial measuring devices are accurate, that our state’s safety programs are well-executed and truly protect people, that mine and wind farm land is reclaimed in a manner that restores productivity and beauty, that property owners are treated with respect and dignity, that our state’s natural resources are developed responsibly to enhance our state’s economic needs and America’s energy independence, and that we conduct the business of the PSC within the letter of the law and our state constitution.”
“I am proud of our record of success,” continued Christmann. “During my time as commissioner, North Dakotans have enjoyed some of the lowest utility rates in the nation. Our mine and wind farm reclamation programs are a model for the rest of the nation. And our state has seen over $8 billion in new energy development infrastructure sited and approved by the commission.”
In conclusion, Christmann said, “It is vitally important that the commission retain a balanced approach to regulation of the industries we oversee. We can and will protect the environment and responsibly develop North Dakota’s God-given resources for the benefit of its citizens.”
Prior to the PSC, Christmann served in the North Dakota Senate representing District 33 for 18 years. He and his wife, Bethanie, own a cattle ranch west of Hazen, ND. Christmann is a veteran of the N.D. National Guard and a graduate of NDSU, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He is a member of the N.D. Lignite Research Council, the N.D. Stockmen’s Association, N.D. Farm Bureau, the National Rifle Association and a former Director of the N.D. Association of Telecommunications Cooperatives.
The federal Office of Surface Mining recently released its annual evaluations of the Public Service Commission’s coal regulatory program and the abandoned mine lands program. These evaluations are done annually to assure that the programs are being implemented consistent with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.
“The complimentary language in these reviews emphasizes the outstanding work our Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation teams do throughout the year,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann who holds the coal mining, reclamation, and abandoned mine lands portfolio. “Their efforts are assuring that North Dakota’s landscape will be safe, productive and beautiful for future generations.”
Regarding the coal regulatory program for current mining operations, the evaluation indicated that “North Dakota has an effective program with no issues in need of corrective action. The Reclamation Division carries out its duties using the appropriate technical expertise and with a high level of professionalism.”
The evaluation of the abandoned mine lands program said, “the state administers an excellent program in full compliance with their approved plan.” They also state that the program “met the goals of abating hazards and improving site conditions at all projects conducted. These projects have reduced the likelihood of death or injury to property owners and the public.”
The PSC’s abandoned mine reclamation program aims to eliminate hazards related to coal mining that was conducted before the enactment of reclamation laws in the 1970’s. The program is funded by a fee that is collected on all active coal mining operations. PSC staff designs and manages projects each year and contacts the work through a competitive bidding process.
Both programs were headed by Jim Deutsch, who retired at the end of November after 42 years with the Public Service Commission. The Commission appreciates his dedicated efforts and achievements that are obvious in these evaluations. Dean Moos, former Assistant Director in the Reclamation Division, has taken over as director as of December 1.
Licensed grain storage in North Dakota has increased more than 4.5 percent from approximately 451 million bushels of capacity in 2015 to 471 million bushels currently, according to the North Dakota Public Service Commission. This does not include private, on-farm grain storage which is not tracked by the PSC.
“Even in these times of depressed commodity prices, our grain industry has really stepped up by adding valuable new storage,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann. “As our agriculture producers continue to increase their ability to grow food and fuel for the world, we continue to benefit from additional storage options.”
The Commission licenses 383 grain warehouses and 81 roving grain buyers. North Dakota licensed public grain warehouses average 1,229,500 bushels of storage capacity, more than double the average capacity in 2000. One hundred years ago the state had more than 2,000 licensed elevators, averaging only 30,000 bushels of capacity for a total licensed capacity of approximately 60 million bushels.
The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has given its 2016 Small Project Award to the North Dakota Public Service Commission’s Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program. The Commission’s AML Program is receiving the award for the exceptional work done at the Halleck Mine approximately five miles north of Bowman.
The Halleck Mine was an underground mine with a coal seam that was 30-40 feet thick and the top of it was only 10-50 feet below grade. It operated from about 1919 to 1944. Sinkholes have been common in the area and were known to be near roads and a 30-inch diameter high-pressure natural gas pipeline. In 2014 emergency repairs were completed due to several large sinkholes that severed a fiber optic telecommunications cable and were dangerously close to the pipeline.
This reclamation project involved drilling and grouting to locate and fill underground voids near public roads and near the natural gas pipeline. Extra precautions were taken during the procedure to prevent damaging the pipeline while making certain the voids were filled.
“Because of the reclamation fee being paid by current mine operations, the PSC is able to repair some of these sites that were abandoned decades ago,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann, who holds the coal mining, reclamation and AML portfolios. “It allows us to protect our infrastructure and our citizens without using taxpayer dollars. This was a particularly challenging project and our team did a great job.”
The Commission’s AML Program is in place to eliminate dangerous situations that resulted from mining activities which occurred before the 1977 federal reclamation act. The Commission receives funds for the program from a federal reclamation fee that is collected on all mined coal.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission has denied a request from Xcel Energy for an advance determination of prudence for solar generation projects in Minnesota.
The decision by the Commission emphasized a conclusion that the power is not cost-effective and would cause increased costs to North Dakota customers without corresponding benefits.
Xcel Energy had requested the determination from the Commission for 187 MW of solar energy. The projects were proposed to meet mandates passed in 2013 by the State of Minnesota that require the company to serve 1.5 percent of its retail customers with solar energy by the end of 2020 and 10 percent by 2030.
The advanced determination of prudence would have assured the company in advance they could charge customers for the costs of the solar projects.
“We need to do all we can to make sure that the state of Minnesota’s scheme to mandate very high-cost electricity is not paid for by North Dakotans who happen to receive service from Minnesota-based utilities,” said Commissioner Randy Christmann.