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After tax cut, rebate on electric bills for North Dakotans is undecided

FARGO — Minnesota utility customers will receive rebates as a result of federal legislation, but whether North Dakotans will get money back remains unclear.

Utility companies across the country paid lower taxes after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed in December. Since then, states have been ordering those companies to pass on the savings to customers.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last week directed state utility companies to return $200 million to customers in the form of refunds.

Xcel customers in Minnesota will get a one-time credit on their bills. A typical Minnesota electricity customer who pays $85 to $90 a month will receive a credit of about $45.

North Dakota's Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies, is in the process of calculating the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on North Dakota customers.

"We'll work and see what the numbers produce and if that will, in fact, result in a refund," Public Service Commissioner Brian Kroshus said.

Once the analysis is complete, the three-member commission will vote on the issue. Kroshus said a refund to customers is likely, unless unforeseen circumstances impact utility companies' profitability.

If the calculations point to a customer refund, there are several ways the money could be distributed, including mailing out rebate checks, using the money to hold down future rate increases and reducing the costs of ongoing projects.

Xcel officials are in talks with the Public Service Commission about those potential distribution methods. "We've been visiting with regulators to see how it would be applied," said Mark Nisbet, principal manager of Xcel Energy.

Dave Sederquist, the North Dakota regulatory affairs manager for Xcel, said one possible way to repay gas customers would be to use the money to help pay for cleanup of a former manufactured gas plant in Fargo.

Sederquist said there's no deadline for the decision on how to distribute a potential rebate, but Xcel expects to have a "path laid out" by October.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story.