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Legislative Report District 13

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States are currently considering a new level of cooperation in getting electric power from where it's generated to where it's used - the possibility of an Interstate Compact on Electric Transmission. This could be a key to North Dakota's energy future.

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It's no secret that North Dakota has become an energy giant. Our state has not only become one of the nation's top oil producing states, we also continue to be a leader in producing electricity, both from traditional resources, such as our rich coal reserves, and from newer renewable resources, such as wind. All will play an important role in our nation's energy future, but transmission of electricity remains a key factor and an ongoing piece of the energy puzzle which needs improvement.

One of the ongoing bottlenecks in the American energy puzzle is the electric transmission grid - the network of power lines which transmits electricity from the plants which generate it to where it's needed and ultimately consumed. The grid is outdated, inefficient, and a key focus of skirmishes among neighboring states. We need to move into a new era of interstate cooperation. The alternative seems to rest with threats from some in the Federal Government to claim authority over interstate electric transmission and "fix" the problem for us.

Most states fear that, like some other federal programs, the solution may be worse than the problem and Washington would probably make things even worse, as seems to be its track record. The good news is that, in the midst of the mire of inaction and roadblocks, there seems to be movement of a new idea which may prove to be an effective solution.

A recent meeting in Washington, which I co-chaired with Representative Tom Sloan of Kansas (whom I had previously appointed to co-chair the Energy Committee of the Council of State Governments, while serving as CSG chairman) focused upon the feasibility of just such an interstate pact.

Participating in the meeting were representatives of state regulators, the energy industry, state legislators, federal agencies including FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and DOE (the Department of Energy, regional energy groups, and others.

The exploratory meeting sparked a positive discussion, which will continue at another meeting, to be convened soon. If a proposed Interstate Compact results, states would be asked to join the compact, through legislative action. Once operative, the compact could be a catalyst for new consensus on interstate transmission on both small and larger scales.

Both the State of North Dakota and all of us - who consume electricity every day - would be well served by such improvements in our electric transmission grid and important advancements for our energy future.

Your legislators appreciate hearing from you. If you have questions about legislative matters don't hesitate to contact us: Rep. Alon Wieland (awieland@nd.gov, 282-9470), Sen. Judy Lee (jlee@nd.gov, 282-6512), Rep. Kim Koppelman (kkoppelman@nd.gov, 282-9267).

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