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Published October 20 2010

Forum editorial: Re-elect Cramer to the ND PSC

Kevin Cramer’s tenure at the North Dakota Public Service Commission has been an education for the commissioner. He’s learned well. He’s brought balance and clear thinking to the job. He hasn’t always been as strong a voice for consumers as we’d like (as was former Commissioner Susan Wefald), but Cramer’s understanding of the regulatory role of the PSC has deepened and matured during his years of service.

Cramer has earned another term, not only because he’s a serious student of the commission’s mandate, but also – and most importantly – because his experience on the job is valuable to a state confronting more and more regulatory challenges.

That being said, challenger Brad Crabtree, a farmer/rancher from the Kulm area, is a good candidate. He’s knowledgeable about the PSC’s responsibilities. He’s been on the front lines pursuing alternative energy strategies in concert with improving the performance of traditional energy sources. Contrary to what his antagonists say, Crabtree is not against coal and oil. Rather, he envisions an energy future that embraces all forms of energy production, when done responsibly.

Ironically, Cramer’s pragmatic approach is similar. The commissioner has demonstrated his willingness to challenge industry when the interests of North Dakotans are at stake. He took the lead, for example, in forcing a pipeline company to move a pipeline route away from a wooded river valley. He led the commission’s efforts in an ongoing tilt with the BNSF Railway regarding grain shipping rates. He has quietly lobbied the wind energy sector to be more sensitive to the impact of wind turbine farms on neighbors. He understands the industry risks a public relations black eye and a legislative backlash if it disregards landowner ire.

If there is a concern Cramer should acknowledge, it’s the potential politicization of the PSC because the commissioners are all Republicans, and have, of late, been more politically active than in the past. The PSC’s work, after all, is not political, it’s regulatory. Decisions affect all North Dakotans. Cramer and his colleagues should guard against eroding the commission’s credibility by succumbing to political imperatives.

Crabtree’s grasp of the issues on the PSC’s agenda is impressive. He would be an informed, motivated commissioner. But he has not made the case that an experienced, hard-working commissioner should be replaced. Cramer has earned re-election.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.