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MDU fined $40,000 for failing to get PSC approvals for a 1.5 mile, 230kV line in Morton County

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Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
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Public Service Commissioners Randy Christmann, Julie Fedorchak and Sheri Haugen-Hoffart

Bismarck-based MDU has been fined $40,000 by the North Dakota Public Service Commission for construction of a 1.5 mile long, 230 kilovolt electric transmission line in Morton County without getting required approval for siting the line.

That line runsfrom just north of the Heskett power plant to a new electric substation.

MDU also built part of the line within 500 feet of certain landowners without getting permission, and it removed some frozen topsoil without authorization.

The utility later moved the line so it was more than 500 feet away from the landowners.

In the PSC’s order, MDU was fined $50,000, with $10,000 suspended. Another fine – for $60,000 -- for building it too close to landowners – was deleted.

"Throughout the fall, the company did try in good faith to negotiate with those landowners, and address their concerns in a number of different ways," said PSC Chairman Julie Fedorchak. "They ultimately could not get resolution."

Fedorchak said because of that, MDU moved the structures.

"I feel that the cost of moving the structures is a penalty in itself," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said this is a serious issue – but she’s conformable that MDU recognizes that. She said there were a lot of lessons learned.

"It does underscore the value of the siting process," Fedorchak said. "Had the company gone through this in the normal course — where the utility filed with us, and a public hearing was held — the issues with the landowners would have been brought to life, and the company most certainly wouldn't have constructed it where they did."

MDU spokesman Mark Hanson said there needs to be better communication between regulatory and construction staff.

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