Our choices for North Dakota attorney general, secretary of state, ag post, PSC, Supreme Court

by Forum Editorial Board

North Dakota state government is well managed and its statewide officeholders reflect the views of residents, who prefer a government that is responsive but not intrusive. The slate of candidates up for reelection is a roster of experienced, steady hands at the wheel who deserve to stay on the job.

So we endorse Wayne Stenehjem to remain attorney general, Al Jaeger to remain secretary of state, Doug Goehring to remain agriculture commissioner and the two incumbents on the Public Service Commission, Randy Christmann and Brian Kroshus, to continue in those roles. Voters also should elect Justice Lisa Fair McEvers to stay on the North Dakota Supreme Court.

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Christmann, who was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2012, serves as chairman of the group, which regulates utilities and has an important role in overseeing energy development in the state. Before he was elected to the PSC, Christmann, a Republican, served in the North Dakota Senate and once served as a legislative appointee to the Lignite Research Council. He operates a 107-year-old, third generation cattle ranch west of Hazen.

Read the full editorial here.

PSC Receives Praise in Federal Evaluation of Coal Reclamation Programs

In an evaluation conducted by the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) the Public Service Commission’s Coal Regulatory Program and their Abandoned Mine Lands Program both received high praise.  OSM said the PSC “has effective and efficient coal regulatory and AML programs.”

According to Commission Chairman Randy Christmann, who holds the portfolios for these programs, “The complimentary language in these reviews emphasizes the outstanding work our AML and Reclamation teams do throughout the year.  Their efforts are assuring that North Dakota’s landscape will be safe, productive, and beautiful for future generations.”

The AML Program works to eliminate hazards from coal mine activity which occurred prior to 1977 reclamation laws.  PSC staff design and manage the projects which are completed by contractors.  Since 1982, 164 primary projects have been completed, in addition to 32 emergency projects.  The OSM evaluation found that the PSC “administers an excellent program in full compliance with their approved plan … The NDPSC continues to administer an efficient and successful AML Program.  These projects have reduced the likelihood of death or injury to property owners and the public.”

The Reclamation Program oversees six surface mining operations.  Over 132,000 acres are currently permitted for mining.  Of that total, over 81,000 acres have been disturbed and over 56,000 acres have been backfilled, top-soiled, and seeded.  The OSM evaluation found that “The NDPSC staff continue to implement the program in a professional, cooperative, and fair manner.  The division uses new technology to become more efficient and make information more readily available to the public.”

PSC orders MDU electric rate reduction, adjusts other rates

Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. electric customers will see refunds and reduced rates from the utility’s federal tax cut benefits.

In January, the North Dakota Public Service Commission ordered the company to report savings from its reduced federal income tax rate. As a result, it was determined MDU should return $8.5 million annually to customers, Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said.

After some discussion, the commissioners unanimously voted to amend the original proposal, which would have allowed the company to keep $300,000, to instead give the full value of the tax credit to ratepayers.

Commissioner Randy Christmann said he insisted the tax benefit be passed on.

“Today is the fulfillment of that effort,” he said.

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MDU electric customers could see lower rates, one-time bill credit

That bill reduced corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent. And in a settlement with PSC staff, MDU is planning to reduce rates by about $5 a month on average for a residential customer using 980 kilowatt hours of electricity. That would take effect October first. In addition, MDU will give customers a one-time bill credit for rates charged after the tax bill became law, and before the new rates kick in. MDU says that would be around $28 for the average residential customer.

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Public Service Commission Approves Wind Farm Decommissioning Plans

Public Service Commission Approves Wind Farm Decommissioning Plans

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has approved the first set of wind farm decommissioning plans following new rule changes approved in 2017.

The Commission has overseen reclamation of coal mining in North Dakota since 1970 and used that experience in developing the new rules.  The rules ensure that wind farms are removed and the land reclaimed when operations cease.  With wind generation expanding in the state and the projects growing in size, the PSC has expressed concern about the potential for abandoned projects in the future.

According to Commission Chairman Randy Christmann, “A half century ago our ancestors made a commitment to ensure our coal mines would be reclaimed when the prairie became quiet again.  These decommissioning rules demonstrate a renewed commitment by our generation to ensure that North Dakota’s beautiful landscape will be returned to its splendor when these giant wind turbines reach the end of their useful lives.”

The new rules were approved by the PSC in May of 2017, effective July 1, 2017.  The Commission requested that existing facilities submit plans by July 1, 2018.  Projects sited before July 1, 2017 must submit financial assurances for decommissioning after their tenth year of operation.  Projects sited after July 1, 2017 must submit financial assurances before commencing construction.

Christmann Receives GOP Endorsement For North Dakota Public Service Commission

Christmann Receives GOP Endorsement For North Dakota Public Service Commission

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.”

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ND regulators approve pipeline upgrade, new gas plant

ND regulators approve pipeline upgrade, new gas plant

By Amy Dalrymple / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—Two major oil and gas projects approved Wednesday by the North Dakota Public Service Commission aim to improve pipeline safety, meet local demand for diesel and reduce natural gas flaring in the state.

Commissioners approved a project from Cenex Pipeline LLC that will upgrade a portion of a refined fuels pipeline in northwest North Dakota that was built in 1960. However, the company does not have easement agreements to begin construction along 22 percent of the pipeline route.

Also Wednesday, commissioners approved the Arrow Bear Den gas plant near Watford City to process growing volumes of natural gas in the core of the Bakken.

Commission Chairman Randy Christmann said the two projects combined total more than $250 million in economic activity for the state.

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Christmann seeks re-election to Public Service Commission

Christmann seeks re-election to Public Service Commission

AMY DALRYMPLE, Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota Public Service Commission Chairman Randy Christmann announced Thursday he is seeking re-election.

Christmann, a Republican, was elected to the commission in 2012 and is seeking a second six-year term.

He said he wants to continue serving the public by ensuring reliable and affordable utility rates, overseeing safety and land reclamation programs and balancing energy development with protecting natural resources.

The three-member commission oversees electric and gas utilities, energy plant and transmission sitings, coal mine reclamation, pipeline safety, grain elevators and other areas.

“It is vitally important that the commission retain a balanced approach to regulation of the industries we oversee,” Christmann said.

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N.D. Public Service Commissioner Christmann Seeking Re-election

N.D. Public Service Commissioner Christmann Seeking Re-election

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.

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PSC Approves Rule Changes Related to Wind Projects

PSC Approves Rule Changes Related to Wind Projects

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has approved two sets of rule changes that impact wind farm lighting and future decommissioning at the end of their use.  

“A half century ago our ancestors made a commitment to ensure that our coal mines would be reclaimed when the prairie became quiet again,” said Commission Chairman Randy Christmann. “These new rules demonstrate a renewed commitment by our generation to ensure that North Dakota’s beautiful landscape will be returned to its splendor when these giant wind turbines reach the end of their usefulness.” 

One of rule change packages addresses decommissioning and ensures that wind turbines are removed and the land reclaimed when taken out of service. This rule package seeks to assure that money is available for decommissioning and reclamation and enhances the decommissioning requirements for future projects.  The PSC has been responsible for North Dakota’s coal mine reclamation program since 1970 and used that as a basis for these new rules.

The other rule change package addresses wind tower lighting. They allow preference to be given to wind energy projects that commit to installing light mitigation technology to offset the continuously blinking red lights. The new technology would require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.  

The rule changes still need to be examined by the Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee before final approval.