Xcel customers to get a 'refund'

May 9, 2013

Xcel Energy electric customers will be getting a credit on their monthly bills.

The Public Service Commission says that’s a result of an agreement with Xcel for a past rate case.

"It turns out they over-collected $201,000," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. "The settlement agreement requires Xcel to make a one-time bill refund. That will be a credit on the bills of active customers who made bill payments in 2012."

Fedorchak says the average residential customer will see a $1 credit on their bills. Some large industrial customers will see as much as $1100.

"One Call" law strengthened

May 7, 2013

The Legislature is strengthening North Dakota’s “One Call” system.

“One Call” means a contractor who wants to do some digging needs to call “8-1-1” to find out if there are underground power lines or pipelines in that area. Current state law says failure to do so could bring up to a $5000 fine. But the maximum was raised to $25,000.

The group Utility Shareholders of North Dakota helped to shepherd the legislation through the session.

Two violations of North Dakota’s “one call” law in January meant some people in western North Dakota were temporarily without natural gas for heating their homes.

In the first incident, a North Carolina-based contractor struck a WBI Natural Gas line near Alexander. The contractor -- Phillips and Jordan -- had made a call -- but the North Dakota Public Service Commission says it did not due its due diligence when it started to dig.

Flaring bill defeated

Feb 14, 2013

A bill designed to end the flaring of natural gas in western North Dakota has been defeated in the North Dakota Senate.

Currently, nearily a third of the natural gas produced by oil drilling in the Bakken is flared. Under current law, a company can flare the gas for a year without penalty – and may as for a waiver.  Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) wanted to eliminate any waivers.

"I thin k we're missing out on an economic opportunity," Mathern told his Senate colleagues. "We're being wasteful of the environment, we're being wasteful of energy and the resources before us."

'Mr. Coal' retiring

Jan 31, 2013
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

The long-time president and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council plans to retire this spring.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, state officials give John Dwyer a lot of credit for keeping the lignite power industry viable – and keeping electricity costs low.

Wind power alive and well in ND

Jan 21, 2013

The chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission expects renmewed interest in building wind power projects, now that the production tax credit is back in place.

"Several projects have been filed with the Commission, letters of intent that have not yet moved forward," said PSC Chairman Brian Kalk. "I suspect some of those companies will start asking for hearing dates."

Kalk says he also expects work to start on Commission-issued wind power permits that have not yet started.

Coal company fined $2000

Dec 21, 2012

The company that operates the Beulah coal mine will be paying $2000 in fines for a violation of mining and reclamation rules.

Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer says PSC inspectors found Dakota Westmoreland Corporation stripped topsoil from an area to be mined without first constructing the required sedimentation ponds. He says that can create a serious environmental problem – should the area get heavy rain and a lot of runoff.

Commission Chairman Brian Kalk says the company was negligent.

Xcel Energy asks for $16.9 million rate increase

Dec 21, 2012

Xcel Energy has filed an electric rate increase with the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

Xcel is asking for a 9.25 percent increase in overall rates, or $16.9 million. The utility says

it needs the money because of equipment and service upgrades – including plans to extend the lives of its two Minnesota nuclear plants.

Under North Dakota law, Xcel can receive interim rates. It's asking for an 8.6 percent increase as part of its interim package, or $14.7 million.

Xcel customers could get $50 -- based on power outages

Dec 13, 2012

As part of an electric rate case settlement, Xcel Energy has to meet some new reliability standards.

Under the plan, approved by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, if Xcel customers experience more than three non-weather related power outages in a year, Xcel must give them $50 credit.  The plan will be in effect for the next three years.

The PSC says the number of outages in the Fargo area has been a concern over the past several years.

Oil companies, wildlife groups try to coexist

Nov 27, 2012
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

It’s being touted as the first of its kind.

As Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson reports, oil companies are joining conservation and wildlife groups to talk about how to lessen the impact of energy development on wildlife.