Still hanging out in DC, at @autismspeaks leadership summit 

Light posting, as most of today is spent in the Autism Speaks Leadership Summit that I came all the way from sunny South Dakota to Sunny & humid DC to attend. 

The plus is that part of it is to intentionally go to our Representative’s and Senator’s offices. Congresswoman Noem’s staff was great to meet with our group while she was on her way back to DC. and we get to meet with her, Rounds and Thune as a group at their Wednesday Breakfast tomorrow morning, before we visit the Senate offices individually.

It’s been a great couple of days so far, and I’m especially looking forward to the political advocacy/election advocacy portion coming up shortly. 

We’re currently listening to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, and have been treated to several sitting US Senators and Representatives addressing the group, as well as members of the media, administration, scientific and advocacy communities.

Ultimately, the goal is to put the knowledge into practice back in our own states, as well as seek further advocacy at the federal level. 

Back to the lectures!

Press Release: South Dakota PUC handled two rate increase requests from MidAmerican Energy

South Dakota PUC handled two rate increase requests from MidAmerican Energy

Company’s first electric rate increase in two decades approved; natural gas rates to rise after 11 years


PIERRE, S.D. – MidAmerican Energy Co. received the OK today from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission to implement rate increases for natural gas and electric customers. The company’s last electric rate increase request was approved in 1995; the most recent natural gas hike occurred in 2004.


In separate decisions affecting both types of MidAmerican Energy customers–natural gas and electric–the PUC accepted settlement agreements offered by the company and PUC staff that detailed lower-than-requested rate increases. The decisions made by Commissioners Chris Nelson, Kristie Fiegen and Gary Hanson took place at an ad hoc meeting of the PUC held June 16 in Pierre.


MidAmerican’s 88,000 natural gas customers in South Dakota will see a bump on their bill beginning July 1, 2015. On average, customers’ distribution delivery rates will increase by about 5.67 percent; the company’s request was 10.7 percent. 


Improvements in pipe, including retiring all vintage cast iron gas pipe systems and replacing older steel and plastic pipes, were key factors in the company’s request for additional revenue. Other investment in facilities and equipment, and inflation also played a part.


MidAmerican’s electric customers will experience a rate change via a two-step process. Effective July 13, 2015, rates will be implemented resulting in an average increase of 5.66 percent. However, customers will see a reduction on their bills associated with the costs related to a generation project and a transmission project that will be placed into service later this year. This reduction will be effective from July 13 until the time both projects are in service no later than Dec. 31, 2015. MidAmerican and PUC staff explained in documents filed with the commission that such a plan serves the best interest of rate payers by eliminating the need for the company to apply for another, immediate rate increase.


“The fact that you have not been here asking for a rate increase in the last 20 years is commendable,” PUC Chairman Nelson told MidAmerican Energy officials at the meeting. “The company and staff seemed to have resolved issues very well. It is obvious you are making some smart business decisions that are beneficial to ratepayers financially and good for the company,” he commented.


“I appreciate the unique two-step approach taken with the electric rate request,” Vice Chairman Fiegen said. “It saves the customer money and saves the company and staff time. Electric rates are increasing across the nation. I appreciate the efforts to keep this increase as low as possible,” she concluded.


In the request filed with the PUC in August 2014, MidAmerican Energy asked to increase electric rates to raise approximately $1.6 million in additional annual revenues, or approximately 13.8 percent, from its 4,500 electric customers in South Dakota. The PUC’s decision on the final rate increase allows for annual additional revenue of $648,471, or approximately 5.66 percent. During the time the reduction is in effect, the allowed rate increase is only $293,903. 


Prior to Tuesday’s vote, MidAmerican representatives and PUC staff members fielded questions from commissioners ranging from the cost and benefit of the company building new wind energy facilities to the content of customer notices explaining the rate changes.


Commission Hanson noted the voluminous amount of data that was shared by the company and analyzed by the PUC staff for both cases. “It is phenomenal to consider the reams and reams of information that have been pored over to get us to this decision today,” he stated. “I am appreciative and impressed with the diligence of the PUC staff and the civility of the company throughout the process. It’s good to know we have good folks working in the utility business,” Hanson said.


MidAmerican implemented interim natural gas and electric rates on Feb. 1, 2015. Because the approved rate increases are lower than the interim rates, the company will credit the difference plus interest to customers on bills no later than Sept. 1, 2015. Interim rates are allowed by state law. The PUC approved the interim rate refund plans.


The company agreed to not ask the commission for permission to raise natural gas or electric base rates before February 2018.


The PUC’s rate increase process for both MidAmerican Energy dockets included an extensive analysis of the requests by a staff team comprised of an attorney and four utility analysts, assisted by rate consultants. Both requests were scrutinized by the PUC staff with individual elements negotiated with MidAmerican representatives until reaching resolutions described in the settlement agreements.


The full MidAmerican Energy rate increase request dockets can be viewed on the PUC’s website at, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2014 Electric Dockets, EL14-072 – In the Matter of the Application of MidAmerican Energy Company for Authority to Increase its Electric Rates; and Natural Gas Dockets, 2014 Natural Gas Dockets, NG14-005 – In the Matter of the Application of MidAmerican Energy Company for Authority to Increase its Natural Gas Rates.



Prince in town for President. A couple hundred feet away…

A Just caught this…

Prince performed some of his greatest hits at a weekend White House party for President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

But although guests put details on social media, White House spokesman Josh Earnest is refusing to confirm the “Purple Rain” singer’s attendance.


Prince performed in town Saturday at the Warner Theater.

No wonder everyone was so dressed up! I was thinking there was a higher standard for concertgoer attire for a minute.

I should have taken a picture of the marquee – I walked right by it Sunday night as my wife and I were looking for a place for dinner and the freaking line was our the door and around the block. 

Prince was certainly there, as I don’t think it was for an early showing of dancing with the stars.

Xcel Energy rate increase approved by PUC

Xcel Energy rate increase approved by PUC

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission today voted to allow Xcel Energy to raise its electric rates at a rate of less than half of what the company had requested. The average customer in Xcel’s South Dakota territory is expected to experience a 4 percent increase in electric rates beginning July 1, 2015. Xcel’s original request asked for an increase of 8 percent.

The PUC issued its decision at an ad hoc meeting June 15 in Pierre, where it accepted a joint settlement agreement presented by Xcel Energy and PUC staff. The agreement outlined a recommendation that the company be allowed to increase base rates and implement an infrastructure rider to raise approximately $7.795 million in additional annual revenues. In its June 2014 application, the company sought additional revenues of $15.6 million annually.

Xcel representatives have stated that investments to the company’s generation, transmission and distribution facilities and property taxes are among the drivers of the rate increase request.

The commission agreed to allow the company to continue utilizing the infrastructure rider, a mechanism to recover specific costs related to investment in infrastructure. The company must submit a request to the commission for annual review and approval of the rider for rates effective in 2016 and 2017. Xcel Energy also agreed to hold off on any future base rate increase until 2018, which would require commission approval before implementation.

“I have spent a great deal of time contemplating my decision in this case,” said PUC Chairman Chris Nelson. “There are intricacies and complexities that make up this comprehensive request from Xcel Energy such as safety and power upgrades to nuclear facilities, new generation sources, and costs incurred as a result of federal mandates. In the end, I agree that the deal negotiated by PUC staff and the company is fair for both customers and the company,” he concluded.

“The final question that needs to be answered in any rate increase request is, does this increase allow for the production of reliable and safe electricity to the consumer at an affordable rate?” PUC Vice Chairperson Kristie Fiegen said. “After thoroughly studying the case, reading and hearing testimony from PUC staff, consultants and Xcel Energy representatives, I am confident the answer is yes and the decision made today is the right one,” she continued.

“I am appreciative of the negotiations between Xcel and the PUC staff,” Commissioner Gary Hanson stated. “It is clear that the extensive research, discussions and give-and-take involving both entities were conducted professionally and with the goal of keeping the financial impact on consumers as low as possible.”

As allowed by state law, Xcel Energy implemented an interim rate increase on Jan. 1, 2015, reflective of its initial rate increase request. The company will refund to customers the difference between the interim rate and the final approved rate, with interest, during a monthly billing cycle beginning no later than Aug. 1, 2015.

Xcel Energy has approximately 85,000 customers in its South Dakota service territory.

The full Xcel Energy rate increase request docket may be viewed on the PUC’s website at, Commission Actions, Electric Dockets, 2014 Electric Dockets, EL14-058 – In the Matter of the Application of Northern States Power Company dba Xcel Energy for Authority to Increase its Electric Rates.


Rounds featured in story on his opposition to how the EPA is writing regulations

From the Argus/USA Today, Republican US Senator Mike Rounds is featured for his aggressive stance against how Obama’s EPA is doing business:

Rounds has not wavered in his stance that White House agencies and departments are given too much freedom to set rules and that lawmakers are unable to sufficiently check to ensure final regulations match what Congress intends. Much of his concern has centered on a rule from the EPA known as the Waters of the United States that farmers and ranchers fear would give the agency more regulatory power that could infringe on their land rights and saddle them with higher costs. The White House and EPA officials have said those concerns are unfounded.

Farm groups have not said not say whether they would sue the EPA to block the water rule, but those who have followed the issue have long predicted a lawsuit. A legal challenge would be the latest for the EPA.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last Tuesday that 15 states cannot challenge the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for power plants before the rules are finalized. And in the coming weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a challenge to the EPA’s rules restricting toxic emissions from power plants. Opponents have said the EPA didn’t take into account industry costs — estimated by the agency at $9.6 billion annually — in writing the new regulations.

Read it all here.

Horror short right before Jurassic World in Sioux Falls

From a reader:

Hi Pat,
I’m an avid reader of your blog, and have posted a time or two.

I was taking in the new Jurassic World today with my son and was absolutely floored when a commercial for Annette (no last name needed) came on the screen. Had to be about 60 seconds long and was mostly about her “groundbreaking” work treating people with depression.

Thought you’d get a kick out it.

I know it’s a really, really bad thing to film the movie, but is it illegal to record the commercials in movie theaters? I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble. But I’d love to see all of it.  

And find out if a disclaimer has been added about her services being “a limited time offer.”

Rapid City School Board to legislators who opposed opt-out: And your plan is…?

The Rapid City School Board is waiting for the plan from legislators who waded neck deep in the local election and opposed the proposed opt-out as a group:

“It really hurts, because now we’re back to the only thing we can do, and that’s start cutting programs and start cutting staff,” Hansen says. “You know, because 85 percent of your budget is always staff.”

Hansen and other supporters of the opt-out say they now expect those who opposed it to present meaningful alternatives.

District 35 state Rep. Lynne DiSanto of Rapid City wants to do that, beyond tax hikes.

“We really would like to have all things on the table, besides just a tax increase,” DiSanto says. “We really would like to look more comprehensively at some options for school funding.”

DiSanto joined three other Black Hills lawmakers in a press conference against the opt out the day before the vote. Hansen says that put the burden on them to have a plan.

“I can’t believe they don’t already have it,” he said.

Read it all here at KELOLAND.

What’s your thoughts on it? 

Politically, did the group of legislators step into the middle of a mess, given any problem solving they can provide is seven or eight months into the future and contingent on the other 101 legislators?

And will the school district be pointing fingers at them, and calling it ‘their fault’ when they cut things like band and football?

Rounds Applauds EPW Passage of Bill to Roll Back ‘WOTUS’

Rounds Applauds EPW Passage of Bill to Roll Back ‘WOTUS’

WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today applauded the committee’s passage of bipartisan legislation to curb the effects of the administration’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ (WOTUS) rule. The Federal Water Quality Protection Act, of which Rounds is an original cosponsor, would prevent the rule from taking effect and task the agencies with completely redrafting the rule using specific direction from Congress.

“Freeing Americans from burdensome regulations such as WOTUS has been a priority of mine since taking office,” said Rounds. “The final rule goes far beyond what Congress ever intended to be a navigable waterway under the Clean Water Act and could lead to dramatic new regulatory costs for landowners across the nation. Our bill would require EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to go back to the drawing board and work with the Ag community and state and local governments when determining which water features should be under federal jurisdiction and which should be left under state or local jurisdiction.”