Congresswoman Kristi Noem appointed to be first South Dakotan to serve on Powerful Ways & Means Committee

Noem Earns Seat on Powerful
Ways & Means Committee

Noem is first to represent South Dakota on the Committee

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem was confirmed today as a member of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax, trade, and economic growth policies.  Noem is the first South Dakota Member of Congress to serve on the Committee and will be one of only a few rural voices on Ways & Means this Congress.

“My family farm was impacted by the death tax, so I understand – in no uncertain terms – the heavy toll bad tax policies can take on hardworking South Dakotans,” said Noem.  “As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, I look forward to working on solutions that save South Dakota families from the burdensome taxes that have made it more difficult for many to live the American Dream.”

The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to begin tackling a number of issues this Congress, including tax simplification, expanding trade, patient-centered reforms to the healthcare system, and IRS accountability measures.  Rep. Noem will serve on two of the Committee’s Subcommittees:  Human Resources and Oversight.

“I’m confident that I can have the greatest impact for South Dakota by serving on the Ways and Means Committee this Congress,” said Noem. “We have an aggressive Committee agenda slated for the next two years, which includes critical South Dakota priorities, such as simplifying the tax code, expanding trade opportunities, and holding the IRS accountable.  I’m optimistic that folks are ready to govern and prepared to take the tough votes necessary to move our country forward.”

The Committee on Ways and Means is the oldest committee of the U.S. Congress and serves as the chief tax-writing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The Committee also has jurisdiction over trade agreements and legislation, Social Security, Medicare, foster care programs, and unemployment compensation programs, among other things.  For more information on committee jurisdiction, please click here.

“The Ways and Means Committee will take on numerous challenges during the 114th Congress, and Kristi Noem will play an important role as the Committee addresses important issues like reforming our broken tax code, implementing patient-centered health care reforms, and strengthening safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.  “Kristi does an exceptional job representing the people of South Dakota and I know she’ll be an outstanding addition to the Ways and Means Committee in the next session of Congress.”

Noem was first elected to Congress in 2010.  She previously served on the House Committees of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Education and Workforce, and Armed Services.

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United States Senator Mike Rounds Sworn Into Office

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) made the following statement after taking the oath of office as South Dakota’s 27th Senator:

“It’s an incredible privilege to continue serving the people of South Dakota, and I’m humbled by the trust you’ve placed in me to represent you in the United States Senate. Now that the pomp and circumstance is over, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I look forward to working closely with Sen. Thune and Rep. Noem to advance South Dakota priorities and values.”mike_and_joe

PUC does the right thing and denies effort to stop Keystone re-certification

From the Associated Press, it looks like the war against energy held one front in the war as the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission did the right thing and denied an effort to stop Keystone re-certification from small groups of protesters:

The panel voted on Tuesday against arguments from a handful of Indian tribes and environmental groups to dismiss the company’s request. That decision opens up an evidence-discovery process that will culminate with final arguments on the case scheduled for May.

Read it all here.

“The price of liberty is labor as well as vigilance.” (Carl Skovel)

Speaker of the House results:

Boehner: 216
Pelosi: 156
Webster: 12
Others: 24 (I think 7 were Dem’s not voting for Pelosi)

If I got the tally right, 29 GOP members voted for someone other than Boehner. Around 3-6 of the votes seemed grounded in a personal problem with Boehner. But, around 25 voted out of conviction and I think that took courage.

If their conviction was grounded in an idea the Republic is served by pushing issues that will go nowhere and will make people in the middle to doubt Republicans are fit to serve, I disagree.  This fiasco of government policy wasn’t built in a day and I don’t believe it will torn down in a day.  This will take hard work and not every battle is equal to other battles.  I deeply and sincerely believe prudence and diligent focus on the long-run and big issues will serve America best and not less significant or short-term gains.

But, for many of them who didn’t vote for Boehner, I see a sincere expression wanting to have this majority mean something for the good of the Republic. This includes passing the most conservative legislation that will be RELUCTANTLY accepted by President Obama (moving the ball forward).  None of us will get everything we want.  But, hopefully, we can see steady progress toward a government that serves our interests vs. one that expects us to serve the government.

And yes, it will sometimes mean passing legislation that will be vetoed but will compare and contrast the differences between the two parties.  We have a Presidential election in 2016 and a full and open debate of these differences is necessary for a successful Republic.

And, personally, I’m glad this will include Keystone, first hopefully a repeal and then incremental changes in Obamacare, and real reforms in government and spending.

Obama will Veto Keystone Legislation if it hits his desk.

Wow. 6 years is not enough. President Obama just vowed to veto legislation meant to end his foot dragging on the Keystone XL pipeline:

The White House on Tuesday said President Obama would veto Keystone XL pipeline legislation if it passes under the new Republican-led U.S. Congress.

A bill that would have forced Obama’s hand on the issue failed to clear Congress in its final days last year. But the Congress that convened Tuesday and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the pipeline bill will be among the first issues voted on.

Read it here.

Press Release: Thune Welcomes Rounds to South Dakota Delegation

Thune Welcomes Rounds to South Dakota Delegation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) welcomed U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to the South Dakota delegation following Rounds’s swearing in ceremony earlier today:

“Mike is a solid, proven leader who will bring South Dakota common sense to the Senate and is a welcome addition to the South Dakota delegation. As the new Senate Republican majority takes over, South Dakotans stand to benefit from Republican policies that create jobs and get Washington working again for them. From reining in burdensome EPA regulations and preventing backdoor energy taxes and fines on ranchers and farmers, to passing the Keystone XL pipeline and repealing the most onerous parts of ObamaCare, I’m committed to working with Senator Rounds and Representative Noem to advance South Dakota priorities. There is a lot to tackle in this new Congress, and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with them on the major issues facing this country.”

 

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Press Release: Gov. Daugaard Unveils Boards And Commissions Portal

Gov. Daugaard Unveils Boards And Commissions Portal

PIERRE, S.D. – As part of his mission to streamline government and promote openness, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced on Tuesday the launch of a state Boards and Commissions Portal.

“Government should be open and transparent,” said Gov. Daugaard. “This portal will serve as a central hub for many of our state’s gubernatorial appointed boards and commissions, where South Dakotans can easily find minutes, information on members and upcoming meetings.”

South Dakota has more than 100 boards and commissions whose members are appointed by the Governor.

The portal will provide the public with access to a master calendar, meeting materials and information on each board and its members.

The new portal may be accessed at boardsandcommissions.sd.gov.

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Proposed election changes coming this legislative session

Bob Mercer notes this morning what the specific changes being proposed for the 2015 Legislative session are, and how that could impact the way candidates do business:

Their proposal calls for checking the validity of a random sample of 5 percent of the signatures on a petition.

A would-be candidate found to have insufficient valid signatures after the spot check could appeal that adverse finding to circuit court.

Currently the secretary of state doesn’t have authority to check whether the signatures come from actual registered voters from the counties they show on the petitions.

Read it here.

The current laundry list of changes being proposed include…

  1. SOS checks the validity of a random sample of 5 percent of the signatures on a statewide candidate’s petition, but not for State Legislators.
  2. Eliminating “last day” registered mail requirement for petitions, and requiring all petitions be in the office by the deadline.
  3. Nomination petitions start circulating one month earlier, starting on Dec. 1.
  4. A new deadline of the second Tuesday in March to challenge petitions.

I don’t like the inconsistency in item #1, and I think #2 creates an unlevel playing field based on geography. It’s easy to get a petition in under the wire if you live in Pierre, but not so easy if you’re out in Harding county.   #3 and #4 – Yes. Full speed ahead.

Other items I’d like to see? In particular, I’d love to see a petitioning process instituted for people to run for the other constitutional offices (excepting Lt. Gov), such as SOS, AG, School & Lands, etc. I think that opens up the process to candidates who might not otherwise consider it. But that might be just me.

What do you think about the proposed changes to election law? And what would you like to see that we don’t currently have?

Press Release: Thune Calls on Obama EPA to Withdraw Backdoor National Energy Tax

Thune Calls on Obama EPA to Withdraw Backdoor National Energy Tax
-Power plant rule will slam South Dakota rate payers-

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on the EPA to withdraw its proposed regulations on exiting power plants, citing the significant financial burdens it will impose on South Dakota consumers, as well as technical infeasibilities that will drive up energy costs and threaten grid reliability.

“The Obama administration’s proposed power plant regulation is yet another example of presidential executive action that Americans clearly rejected in November as it will hurt jobs and increase costs,” said Thune. “The president’s proposed regulation is a national, backdoor energy tax that will slam South Dakota rate payers—especially low-income families and seniors living on fixed incomes. Affordable and reliable energy provides essential comforts for families across the country this winter and powers American industries to build a stronger economy. Yet the EPA’s proposal will make electricity rates skyrocket and stifle economic growth. I continue to urge Administrator McCarthy to reconsider.”

On June 2, 2014, the EPA proposed the Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, or Clean Power Plan, requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030. Under the proposed rule, South Dakota power plants must reduce carbon dioxide emission rates 35 percent by 2030 based on emission levels from 2012. This reduction mandate is more stringent than the national average for the EPA’s proposed reductions. According to testimony provided to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission in July of 2014, South Dakota consumers could see their electricity bills increase by as much as 90 percent on account of this regulation.

Full text of the senator’s letter is available below:

January 6, 2015

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Headquarters – William J. Clinton Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

I am writing to strongly encourage additional review of the technical feasibility of South Dakota’s emissions reduction target under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, also known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  As you know, affordable and reliable energy helps grow the economy and helps low- and middle-income families make ends meet.  Unfortunately, the CPP will only increase electrical rates and hurt those who can afford it the least.

The CPP fails to recognize South Dakota’s unique energy profile, making compliance not only technically infeasible, but incredibly costly to consumers and damaging to South Dakota’s economic base.  For example, South Dakota is not fully credited for its robust renewable energy production, which totaled approximately 74 percent of all in-state electricity production in 2012.  Additionally, South Dakota has a single coal-fired steam electric generating unit (EGU) and only one natural gas combined-cycle plant (NGCC), which serve different Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs).  As I will detail below, each of these EGUs and the customers they serve fall victim to misguided assumptions under the CPP’s formula for calculating state emission targets.  The remaining building blocks of the CPP raise additional issues that will impose significant burdens to South Dakota rate payers.

Block I:  Coal Plant Efficiency

Improving heat-rate efficiency by six percent at South Dakota’s only large coal-fired EGU, the Big Stone Plant, is not feasible.  The facility, which provides affordable power to thousands in South Dakota and neighboring states, is in the midst of an approximately $400 million environmental upgrade project to meet the EPA’s Regional Haze regulations.  This investment actually decreases the heat-rate efficiency of the plant by approximately two percent when fully online, working against the six percent heat rate improvement for the plant required by Block I.  Because this major development cannot be factored into the CPP’s rubric for South Dakota, the Big Stone Plant will be required to effectively improve its heat-rate efficiency by eight percent.  Such a goal is technically unachievable because the Big Stone Plant is already implementing best practices and upgrades to achieve efficiency gains.  Additionally, the Big Stone Plant exports steam to an area ethanol producer, which it may stop doing on account of the target for heat rate improvement required by the CPP.

Block II suggests that coal-fired generation can be pared down with natural gas power re-dispatched in its place.  However, such a strategy runs contrary to the efficiency goals of Block I because the Big Stone Plant was designed to operate at a high capacity factor, and lower loads reduce efficiency.  In other words, the constant start-ups and shutdowns of the coal-fired EGU imposed by Block II will result in less efficient operations of the plant, increased stress to mechanical systems, and higher maintenance costs—all of which are in direct contradiction to the efficiency mandates of Block I.

Additionally, operating the Big Stone Plant on a limited or seasonal basis will result in a stranded asset because the $400 million upgrade required by the EPA, which is more than the original cost of the plant, will not have fully depreciated by the time the CPP requires the plant to shutter for most of the year.  The EPA rightfully states that the CPP should not result in stranded assets, which equate to higher utility costs for consumers, less grid reliability, fewer jobs, and in the case of the Big Stone Plant, limited ability to recoup the investment in a manner that isn’t punitive to South Dakota ratepayers.

Block II:  Natural Gas and Multiple RTOs

Block II dictates that NGCC EGUs operate up to a 70 percent capacity factor to meet energy demands as coal-fired generation is retired or limited.  This is a blanket provision that fails to account for unique circumstances in each state.  For example, in determining the amount of energy South Dakota’s singular NGCC EGU produced in 2012, the CPP should recognize that Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Deer Creek Station was largely under construction in 2012 and only operated approximately 90 hours for testing and other start-up procedures.  The CPP uses Deer Creek Station’s actual 2012 capacity factor of a mere one percent in calculating South Dakota’s required carbon emission rate reduction.  I believe a fair assessment would recognize the Deer Creek station as “under construction” and reassign an assumed capacity factor of 55 percent in 2012.  Such a recalculation would be consistent with reality and the EPA’s vow to make the CPP flexible.

One of the most glaring issues of the CPP is that it fails to recognize the composition of America’s electric grid.  Electricity is not produced and consumed solely within state lines, but sold, dispatched, and consumed across state lines through RTOs.  Big Stone Plant is dispatched primarily by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc., serving customers in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.  Deer Creek Station is presently dispatched by the Western-Integrated System, but recent agreements will dispatch it to the Southwest Power Pool in the future.  Because the electric generation at one EGU cannot simply be reduced at one location and re-dispatched from another across RTOs, Block II again proves technically infeasible for South Dakota.  While the CPP provides that states can work in multi-state agreements, the EPA has not demonstrated it has the legal authority to require EGUs to coordinate generation, let alone proven the feasibility of multi-state partnerships involving multiple RTOs.

Block III:  Renewable Power Sources

It is also concerning that hydroelectric generation is not included in baseline calculations for Block III of the CPP.  Failure to include hydroelectric generation denies a comprehensive consideration of South Dakota’s diverse energy portfolio and unfairly skews South Dakota’s emission reduction target.  In the CPP’s baseline year of 2012, South Dakota produced

74 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and only three states produced fewer carbon emissions.  As of August 2014, my state generates 546 GWh from hydroelectric and 121 GWh from wind sources.[1]  All renewable energy deserves inclusion in the EPA’s calculations for establishing our emission reduction target.

Additionally, much of South Dakota’s hydro and wind power is exported to other states.  It was discouraging to learn that South Dakota will not get credit for its existing renewable resources and future renewable resources on account that this power is sold to consumers out of state.  Renewable power produced in South Dakota should count toward meeting the emission reduction goal for South Dakota.

Block IV:  Consumer Energy Efficiency

The CPP will also interfere with and potentially discourage demand-side electricity consumption programs.  For example, as many as 250 electric cooperatives in 34 states, including South Dakota, have implemented voluntary demand response initiatives for electric resistance water heaters that reduce energy demand during peak hours.  On account of efforts like this, electric cooperatives account for 20 percent of national peak reduction, even though they manage only 10 percent of retail electricity sales.  Under the CPP, many of South Dakota’s utilities would not receive credit for demand-side management programs that have been in place for years, and it is unclear which states will receive credit for demand-side management programs that result in emissions from out-of-state power plants.  If South Dakota ratepayers take the initiative to participate in these programs, South Dakota’s emission target under the CPP should reflect their participation.

Moreover, the EPA has signaled that the CPP will credit Renewable Energy Certificates to states that receive electricity, rather than those that generate it.  Such unfavorable treatment of utility-scale renewable energy projects will remove incentives for investment.  Consumers should receive credit for their investments that reduce emissions.

Conclusion

The EPA’s CPP will pass significant costs onto hard-working South Dakota families.  In my home state alone, families earning less than $50,000 per year already spend one-fifth of their after tax income on energy costs, which is double the national average.  The CPP is a regressive national energy tax that will disproportionately fall on the elderly, the poor, and those on fixed incomes.  According to testimony at a roundtable hosted by the South Dakota Public Utility Commission in July, some South Dakotans will see their electricity rates almost double as a result of the CPP disproportionately impacting the Midwest.  Additionally, the CPP will impose increased costs to U.S. manufacturers, impeding economy growth and investment, all in return for virtually no impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration or global temperatures.

For these reasons, I urge the EPA to withdraw the CPP due to the serious economic burden it will impose on South Dakota consumers.  At a minimum, the EPA should reconsider South Dakota’s emission reduction target to more accurately reflect our existing energy portfolio and the investments of utilities and ratepayers have already made in efficiency upgrades, renewable energy production, and demand-side energy management programs.  I appreciate your consideration of this important matter and look forward to your timely response.

Kindest Regards,

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[1] http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=SD#tabs-4

 

The Final Term. Who is in the Legislature’s 2016 graduating class?

In looking up where Craig Tieszen was in term limits for a prior post, it had me looking at the LRC roster for the Legislators who are term limited out, and are starting their final term in their chamber.  This two-year stretch is their last opportunity to make their mark among their colleagues, especially if their intent is to run for higher office at the legislative or higher level.

In a few cases, it also sets up showdowns we might already predict for the 2016 elections.

CLASS B, Elected in 2008, reelected in 2010 and 2012, eligible to run for the same seat in 2014, ineligible to run for the same seat in 2016.

Senators
Jim Bradford
Corey Brown
Craig Tieszen
Mike Vehle

Representatives
Jim Bolin (to move up would have to challenge Dan Lederman)
Justin Cronin (With Brown termed out, he might move up)

Peggy Gibson (Could challenge Jim White in ’16)
Brian Gosch (to move up would have to challenge Alan Solano)

Kevin Killer (With Bradford termed out, could move up)
Patrick Kirschman (to move up would have to challenge Angie Buhl-O’Donnell)
Fred W. Romkema (to move up would have to challenge Bob Ewing)
Lance S. Russell (to move up would have to challenge Bruce Rampelberg)
Dean Schrempp (Could challenge Betty Olson in ’16)
Jacqueline Sly (to move up would have to challenge Phil Jensen)
Roger Solum (to move up would have to challenge Reid Holien)
Mike Verchio (to move up would have to challenge Bruce Rampelberg)
Dean Wink (to move up would have to challenge Gary Cammack)

So start watching them now – on a few, you could see fireworks!