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Published September 11 2010

ND Public Service Commission candidates debate

Candidates for North Dakota’s Public Service Commission say there’s a clear distinction between their views on the commission’s role in establishing policy and spearheading energy development.

Republican incumbent Kevin Cramer and Democratic-NPL challenger Brad Crabtree debated their positions Friday in Fargo in front of about 30 people at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley.

Cramer and Crabtree disagreed on how much involvement the PSC ought to have with landowners affected by development projects, such as wind farms or oil pipelines.

The commission is charged with regulating gas and electric utilities, pipelines, coal mining and other entities.

Crabtree said the current PSC hasn’t done enough to watch out for landowners.

“We have landowners in local communities that are bearing the brunt of impacts from energy development that benefits all of us as North Dakotans,” Crabtree said.

Cramer challenged Crabtree’s assertion, saying the commission regularly meets in communities affected by projects and rarely – if ever – have there been objections, he said.

“The fact of the matter is we do care about the landowners,” said Cramer, who’s served on the PSC for seven years. “(That’s) why they have – and they ought to and do have – a sense of confidence that there’s tremendous oversight.”

The pair was also split on how much leadership the PSC should have in developing energy practices.

North Dakota needs to be more of a trailblazer on a global stage and look toward exporting the state’s energy resources to other regions of the country, Crabtree said.

Cramer said North Dakota is already a respected leader in energy and should focus on expanding its own successes rather than aspiring to be like other parts of the world.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541