Correction: Cheryl Bergian interview (Oct. 5)
Due to transcription and editing errors, some portions of the Oct. 5, 2008, "Prairie Voices" interview with Cheryl Bergian, Democratic-NPL candidate for North Dakota public service commissioner, were unclear. Here is a corrected copy of Bergian's...
Due to transcription and editing errors, some portions of the Oct. 5, 2008, "Prairie Voices" interview with Cheryl Bergian, Democratic-NPL candidate for North Dakota public service commissioner, were unclear. Here is a corrected copy of Bergian's biography, as well as corrected copies of the questions-and-answers that contained errors.
The online text of the original also has been corrected.
Cheryl Bergian, former executive director, Human Rights Coalition, Fargo: Bergian graduated from UND School of Law and worked with legal services in Fargo for 14 years. She was first with Legal Assistance of North Dakota and then with Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services. She also became the first employee of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and worked there for six years.
Q. Why do you want to be a public service commissioner?
A. Their decisions affect the budgets of everyone in the state. One big area is utilities regulation. They determine what a fair rate is for electricity and heat for investor-owned utilities -- Xcel, Otter Tail and MDU.
As a customer, when I get that utility bill and they're charging more than they should, I don't have any options. I have to pay that utility bill. It's the Public Service Commission that decides what a fair rate of return is for the company and what's fair for customers.
When you have a monopoly, the PSC is the only place that makes a difference for people.
Another reason is the PSC has an integral role in energy development in the state. The PSC sites large wind farms. As we have more and more wind farms, we are going to have more situations where landowners and communities are going to be affected by those siting decisions. The PSC makes those decisions. They also site transmission lines and pipelines.
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Q. What else can be done to avoid NIMBY responses?
A. People live in areas where they have a good quality of life, and they don't want something ugly or unhealthy in their backyard. Residents of South Heart, N.D., had a coal-fired plant and coal mine going in. They said they didn't want it, but they recognized that it may happen anyway, and they wanted to make sure their health concerns got answered.
They asked: What will our quality of life be like? They are not wrong to oppose it, but it has to go some place.
The role of PSC is to help put such plants in the best place.
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Q. As a commissioner, you are not to consider global warming?
A. Environmental issues can be taken into consideration for siting. But for electricity rate increases, the Legislature said the PSC cannot consider external or hypothetical costs -- and right now, global warming costs are hypothetical.
So, the role of the Public Service Commission is not to decide if global warming exists or not. That's a legislative role. That's a public policy kind of decision.
The statutes do allow consideration of environmental issues, and I as a commissioner would take that into consideration.