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Letter to the editor: Current North Dakota PSC leads from behind

As a candidate for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, I could not agree more with the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial, “Oil-field waste regulators should be more proactive,” that ran April 21 in The Jamestown Sun.

It should not take a pipeline leaking for days unreported, or a train exploding outside of Casselton, N.D., before our elected regulators on the PSC exercise their full legal authority on behalf of all North Dakotans.

Nearly a decade into our energy boom, the PSC continues to lead from behind. For example, the PSC is only now exploring the idea of state-run pipeline protections while its oversight of our state’s railroads lags far behind other states. Yet no state has seen a greater increase in pipeline demand or rail traffic than North Dakota.

The PSC has failed to meet the demands of this “once in a lifetime energy boom.” We deserve commissioners who will take responsibility for overseeing development, who are willing to ask tough questions and who will work to ensure that development is done right by North Dakotans today and those to come. We deserve commissioners who don’t wait for disasters to happen before they act.

Years ago, I worked at BTR Farmers Co-op near Leeds, N.D. Farmers expected our elevator infrastructure and equipment to be high quality and closely monitored to secure their commodity. North Dakotans should expect the same with our energy infrastructure. We deserve commissioners who will pursue their authority to monitor our pipelines and railroads and ensure they are the highest quality.

The public needs to have confidence that our elected officials are protecting our families, communities and property. Yet the PSC’s reactive oversight is putting our families, communities and economic growth at risk.

The PSC is vested with the authority to ensure that our natural resources are extracted, transported and utilized safely on behalf of all North Dakotans. A balanced approach — accompanied with accountability — is the only way to ensure that this is done. It is also the only way to preserve everything that makes North Dakota unique.

Being good stewards of our land, air and water while responsibly developing our natural resources are not mutually exclusive. It is a bedrock North Dakota value that has been passed down for generations and one I promise to uphold for future generations if given the opportunity to serve on the PSC.

(Axness represents District 16 in the North Dakota Legislature)