Weather Forecast


Axness: Current Public Service Commission leads from behind

As a candidate for the Public Service Commission, I could not agree more with the Grand Forks Herald’s April 20 editorial published in The Dickinson Press titled, “Regulators should be more proactive.”

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

Nearly a decade into our energy boom, the Public Service Commission continues to lead from behind. For example, the PSC is only now exploring the idea of state-run pipeline protections while their 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 Public Service 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. Farmers expected our elevator infrastructure and equipment to be of high quality and closely monitored to secure their commodity. North Dakotans should expect the same with our energy infrastructure. We deserve Public Service Commissioners who will pursue their authority to monitor our pipelines and railroads and ensure they are of 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 is a Democrat from Fargo representing District 16 in the North Dakota Senate. He is running for the North Dakota Public Service Commission in this year’s election. Email him at