BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The Public Service Commission (PSC) is a constitutional agency with varying degrees of regulating and licensing authority over utilities such as electrical and natural gas rates, pipeline safety, and coal mine reclamation.
The agency serves the public by working with consumers to resolve disputes with utility companies and monitoring the accuracy of all sales. Three commissioners are elected on a statewide basis to serve staggered six-year terms.
Sheri Haugen-Hoffart was appointed to the commission by Governor Doug Burgum to replace Brian Kroshus, who resigned after being appointed as state tax commissioner in December 2021.
Josh Meny sat down Haugen-Hoffart who is running in a special election to keep her role.
The following is a transcription of their conversation. Josh’s questions and statements are labeled in italics.
What gives you the experience to continue your position here?
“Well, I was blessed for nine years to serve on Capital Electric’s cooperative board of directors. And from there, my fellow members elected me to central power. So for nine years, I learned about generation, transmission, distribution in the end-users. Along with that I took a lot of classes in the electrical industry, and learned everything about how energy or electricity is generated to the financial aspect of a cooperative,”
That’s impressive. What are some of the biggest challenges that you’re (PSC) facing right now?
“For some time now, is the electrical grid: affordability and reliability. I’m blessed to work with two commissioners who have that work within the Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO). So, the North Dakota voice is being heard on that. And, another thing that we’re facing is pipeline safety. That’s in my portfolio. So that is something very important to me. And another platform for me regarding liability and affordability and pipeline safety is cybersecurity.”
How does the public service commission react to this (energy) crisis that’s happening?
“Well, twofold. I think how we react is number one, as indicated is from the education standpoint. All three of us Commissioner Fedorchik, Mr. Christmann, and myself have made it so that North Dakota’s voice needs to be heard. So how we do that is we are actively participating in regional and national conferences, and committees. Commissioner Christmann participates in (Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Julie (Fedorchak) participates in MISO MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator). I serve on the executive board for MARK. And what we want to do is be out there. North Dakota is doing many things very well, and we want to take that message regionally and nationally. The other way we do it is through applicant rates. Applications, when we get a rate case increase, it’s a balancing act between what the company needs to perform, provide that reliable and affordable services, but also what the consumer can afford. So it’s that balancing act that we do,” explained Haugen-Hoffart.
Winter is really close. That’s got to be a challenge that you’re heading into right now.
“It’s a challenge for everyone. This inflation is impacting all of us on a day-to-day basis, be it at the gas pump, the grocery store, or electrical rates. Yes, it’s a big impact. And we’ll see what the midterms bring about,” said Haugen-Hoffart.
(In regard to national politics) “We really need to get back to the basics and really get this inflation under control to help the everyday citizens on what they are paying at the pump pain at the grocery store. We need to help everyone,” Haugen-Hoffart said.
Anything else I’m missing, Sherri?
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the citizens of North Dakota. I enjoy it. I look forward to coming to work every day. And the industry has been very wonderful to me and accessible. I work with a great staff. I can’t thank Commissioner Fedorchak and Commissioner Christmann enough for their knowledge that the have, and being great mentors to me.
Lots of challenges! Sheri Haugen-Hoffert Public Service Commissioner, thank you very much for your time.