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Otter Tail Power granted an interim rate increase

Dec 21, 2017

North Dakota customers of Otter Tail Power Company will see their monthly electric bills rise in January.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission granted Otter Tail an interim rate increase, while it considers a permanent rate hike. Otter Tail filed for a $13.1 million dollar increase, which is 8.7 percent.  That would mean an average residential customer would pay another $11.50 a month. The interim increase means a customer’s bill would go up $8.86 a month.

New natural gas plant planned for McKenzie County

Dec 21, 2017
Dave Thompson

Another natural gas plant is being planned for McKenzie County.

Arrow Field Services is proposing the Bear Den Gas Processing Plant Two. The first plant produces 30 million cubic feet of gas per day. Phase two would add another 120 million cubic feet.

The Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on the siting for the plant.

Commissioner Brian Kroshus said the plant will be supplied with gas from the Ft. Berthold Reservation.

"The natural gas recovery from the reservation wells is 69 percent," Kroshus said. "That means 31 percent is being flared off."

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Representatives of Meridian Energy say they hope to start construction next year on a new 27,500 barrel a day oil refinery near Belfield.

Company officials had an informal meeting with the North Dakota Public Service Commission, to update commissioners on the project. The PSC would get involved in siting the refinery, if it reached the 50,000 barrel per day threshold. Meridian is now waiting for a final decision from the state Health Department on an air quality permit.

Dave Thompson

October was a good month for oil production in North Dakota.

"I think the numbers are going to speak louder than anything I could," said state mineral resources director Lynn Helms. "It's really pretty remarkable."

What's remarkable is production jumped to nearly 1.2 million barrels a day -- a 78,000 barrel a day increase from September.

"That is the largest month-over-month increase we've ever had in North Dakota," Helms said in his monthly "Director's Cut" media briefing.

Interim committee studying wind power siting

Dec 14, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

An interim Legislative committee has begun a study of wind power in North Dakota – looking at wind farm siting laws and rules, as well as rules for decommissioning wind farms when they’re no longer used.

"The process of siting wind projects has gotten more and more controversial, as we see more farms developing," Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak told the interim Natural Resources Committee. "We've also gotten better at it."

But Fedorchak told the Committee she's open to find more improvements.

The president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council said he welcomes the US Geological Survey’s plans to conduct a comprehensive, broad-based resource estimate for the Williston Basin.

Ron Ness said when the USGS did a similar study in 2013, the estimate of recoverable oil at that time from the Bakken and Three Forks formations more than doubled, from 3.6 billion barrels to 7.4 billion barrels.

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Under new rules adopted by the state Industrial Commission, oil companies will have to give royalty owners more details on deductions taken from their royalty checks.

Royalty owners have complained about trying to get answers from the oil companies on why some deductions are taken from their royalty payments.

North Dakota Mineral Resources assistant director Bruce Hicks said the rule will provide clarity and transparency.

New rules proposed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission would change the required lighting on wind towers.

The lights are required for aircraft safety.

Many of the older wind farms use blinking red lights. Some people have complained that those lights remain on even when there are no airplanes in the area. But PSC Chairman Randy Christmann said there are newer technologies for those lighting systems. 

One is “aircraft detection lighting.”

Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission say they will be giving some more scrutiny to utilities that have a “transmission facility cost rider” on their monthly bills.

The PSC approved an added $1.02 on an Otter Tail Power Company customer’s monthly bill. The Commission is considering a less than $1 per month charge for transmission costs on MDU electric bills.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the costs of transmission are significant. And she says the PSC will be taking a harder look at these kinds of riders.

Xcel Energy to increase reliability in Fargo

Nov 30, 2017
Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

Xcel Energy has been given the go-ahead to build a new 115 kilovolt power line between two Fargo substations.

The North Dakota Public Service Commission has given Xcel the green light.

It would be a five-mile line between the Maple River and Red River substations.

"Essentially, the transmission line will provide for increased reliability in the Fargo area," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "It should help prevent overloads on neighboring substations."