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In PSC race, it's a question of experience

FARGO -- In their first debate, Julie Fedorchak, a Republican on the state Public Service Commission, and her Democratic challenger, Tyler Axness, agreed on a lot of things.

FARGO - In their first debate, Julie Fedorchak, a Republican on the state Public Service Commission, and her Democratic challenger, Tyler Axness, agreed on a lot of things.

 

They agreed that regulators of the energy and transportation industries need "balance," that the state needs to be involved in train safety inspections, and that federal coal policy is unfair to the industry.

 

But Axness said Fedorchak and other commissioners, all Republicans, have failed to show leadership in the face of a growing number of accidents accompanying the oil boom, including saltwater and oil spills.

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Voters have a choice between people who "come up with solutions after a disaster has happened," he said, and those with "the vision to prevent emergencies from happening."

 

Fedorchak countered: "This election is about ideas but, more importantly, it’s about who has the experience and the track record to deliver results."

 

She touted her 20 years of experience in energy and public policy against Axness’ experience, which she said is just half a term in the state Senate.

 

The two are competing for a two-year term. Their debate, sponsored by AARP and Prairie Public, was recorded Monday at the broadcaster’s studio. It will air next month.

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In classic fashion, the incumbent talked about her record and the challenger found problems.

 

While the fiery oil-train derailment in 2013 near Casselton was a wake-up call, Axness said the PSC should have been woken up in 2002 when a derailment near Minot released poisonous anhydrous ammonia. There have been more derailments since, he said.

 

Fedorchak, named to the PSC in December 2012, said she’s pushing for state train inspectors to supplement federal inspectors.

 

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