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Dean Hulse, Published January 17 2012

Co-ops behaving like corporations

Kudos to the editorial writers at The Forum and to Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, for questioning the cynical actions of North Dakota’s utilities and coal interests. Clearly, a group as powerful as North Dakota’s coal-fired electricity sector can finance its own lawsuit challenging a Minnesota law dealing with carbon dioxide emissions.

Particularly disturbing is the fact that two generation and transmission cooperatives – Basin Electric and Minnkota Power – are involved in the lawsuit. Is this another case of cooperatives behaving more like corporations? (Read: American Crystal Sugar Co. and its lockout.)

If Basin and Minnkota want North Dakota’s taxpayers to pay for more than half the cost of a lawsuit carrying a $1.2 million price tag, then shouldn’t the taxpayers get something in return? How about having these electric co-ops fall under the regulatory oversight of the North Dakota Public Service Commission?

Through a network of distribution co-ops, Basin and Minnkota provide electricity to a significant number of North Dakota’s urban residents in the state’s largest cities – in direct competition with investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. How about reviewing the service areas of these co-ops, which were created to serve rural America?