NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — From electric and gas utilities, to pipeline safety, to auctioneers – the Public Service Commission has many regulatory duties.

Josh Meny sat down with Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak who has been serving on the commission for ten years.

She’s also the Chair and has represented North Dakota on the national stage for our state’s innovations in energy and technology.

The following is a transcription of their conversation. Josh’s questions and statements are labeled in italics.

For a lot of people, they don’t know exactly what the Public Service Commission does entirely. Can you explain that? And also why you’re the best person for this role?

“So, the Public Service Commission is a regulatory agency. And one of our main jobs is to provide oversight for the monopoly utilities in the state that provide electric and gas service to a vast majority of North Dakotans living in our more urban areas. And so we’re the competition basically, for those monopoly utilities. So we have a key role in helping ensure that they’re investing in the right things and that they’re charging rates that are as low as possible to maintain high reliability, and affordable service. I tell people, whether, you know, when they want to know what we do, I say, if you care about cold beer and hot showers, then you should pay attention to the Public Service Commission who is on it,” explained Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak.

“So in terms of why I feel that I’m a good candidate for this job, I have 10 years of experience, it’s a really tactical position. So it takes a while to get up and running and to be going full steam. I really feel like I’m there. I hit my stride. I know what to ask, I know where to push. I really feel like I can do the best job for citizens in North Dakota today, because I know what questions to be asking, and how to get at like, the most important issues. I also have worked myself into some national leadership roles. I’ll be the head of our National Utility Regulatory Group in 2024. So I’ll be the spokesperson for utility regulators all over the country, and excited to bring North Dakota’s kind of policy ideas and our take on industry and energy industry to the national level and provide a voice for that nationally,” said Fedorchak.

When you were testifying in front of the Senate Energy Committee, what did you discuss?

“I discussed with our U.S. Senators, the importance of focusing on two big things when we think about the electricity grid in our country and transitioning to more and more renewable resources, we need to keep in mind two things. Reliability, most importantly, and then affordability. Because there’s a lot of focus nationally on sustainability, meaning we have to have electricity supplies that are sustainable for the environment, but they also need to be sustainable for our economy. And they need to be affordable for people. So those two things reliability and affordability are key pieces of long-term sustainability,” explained Fedorchak.

Now for folks on the energy user side, what should they know about these high prices? Is there anything they should know about or fill out any sort of application for assistance?

“So first of all, yes, for anybody that might qualify for assistance for home heating, there are programs available, the LIHEAP Program is a very good one. There are also weatherization programs available to help low-income folks weatherize their homes that can have a huge impact on cutting your energy bills. And this winter, we know energy prices are going to be high. So all of us, regardless of our incomes are going to want to do everything we can to conserve, but especially folks who might worry about being able to meet their needs this winter, don’t hesitate to reach out. They can connect you to those programs or through the state. Those programs are available, the money is there. Let’s use those funds to help people make it through this winter,” said Fedorchak.