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Fargo businessman launches bid for PSC seat

Fargo businessman Todd Reisenauer announces his candidacy for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL endorsement for a six-year term on the North Dakota Public Service Commission during a news conference Thursday in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)

BISMARCK — A Fargo businessman pledged Thursday to bring better strategic planning if elected to the North Dakota Public Service Commission, calling the regulatory agency “slow to respond to our citizens’ needs.”

Todd Reisenauer officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic-NPL Party’s endorsement to run for the PSC seat that’s been held by Commissioner Brian Kalk since he was elected to a six-year term in 2008.

Reisenauer said state government is politically unbalanced, and nowhere more than on the PSC, which consists of three Republicans: Kalk, Randy Christmann and Julie Fedorchak.

“At this critical moment in our state’s history, we really cannot afford to have one-party control of state government continue to mismanage the challenges of this once-in-a-lifetime energy boom,” he said in Bismarck.

Reisenauer said the PSC is “continually playing catch-up,” noting that in the wake of a massive oil pipeline spill near Tioga last fall, Kalk proposed expanding the PSC’s role to include inspections of crude oil pipelines – a plan Reisenauer knocked as “10 years too late.

“Creating a plan after a disaster happens really begs the question, what else has the Public Service Commission overlooked that has left us unprepared?” he said.

Kalk said the Tioga spill exposed that existing federal oversight of intrastate crude pipelines perhaps wasn’t adequate for a growing state like North Dakota. But he also noted that prior to the current oil boom, the state probably didn’t have enough intrastate oil pipelines to justify a state-run oil pipeline inspection program like it has for natural gas pipelines.

“For me, the way I see it is it’s just the natural progression of our pipeline safety (program),” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Reisenauer, 38, grew up on a cattle ranch that’s still run by his father near Dickinson. He moved in 1993 to Fargo, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from North Dakota State University. He also holds a master’s degree in management from the University of Mary.

He said his outlook has been shaped by meetings with hundreds of North Dakota businesses as a technical sales consultant.

“My perspective focuses on problem-solving over winning political fights,” he said.

He said the PSC is poorly handling the management of power and transmission lines and that more transparency is needed in pipeline siting.

On one of the most pressing issues facing power generation in North Dakota, Reisenauer said he doesn’t support a one-size-fits-all energy policy when it comes to proposed federal regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“I think states should have more say,” he said.

Reisenauer said he’s a mineral rights owner and landowner with family members who depend on the oil industry.

“And what I’m hearing out in the community is this attitude, ‘Is this worth it?’” he said, adding the “ineffectiveness of government” is likely to blame for that attitude.

Democrats will endorse their slate of statewide candidates at the party’s state convention March 28-30 in Fargo. Kalk’s year-end disclosure report filed with the secretary of state showed he received $51,771 in campaign contributions in 2013 and had $43,884 in cash on hand.

Reisenauer and his wife, Amy, have a 6-year-old daughter, Tess.

Reach Mike Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.