BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's Public Service Commission last year approved more than $1 billion worth of energy-related projects, and officials expect at least that level of activity in 2014.
The three-member panel regulates coal mining, land reclamation, pipelines, electric and gas utilities, grain elevators, telecommunications and auctioneers. A big part of its recent workload has involved determining locations for oil and natural gas pipelines, natural gas processing factories, and wind energy projects.
The projects approved last year included 90 megawatts of gas-fired generation , several route changes for electric transmission lines, eight pipelines totaling nearly 100 miles, and three wind farms with 560 megawatts of total generating capacity.
The average processing time once siting applications are complete is about 60 days. The agency said some of the projects were started as early as 2011 and were not formally approved until 2013.
The state's energy development has spurred the number of cases the commission has handled from just seven in 2005 to 26 last year, records show.
"I think the PSC every year has gotten bigger in the number or the cases and the complexity of the cases," Public Service Commission President Brian Kalk said.
The value of approved energy-related projects last year was down $900 million from a decade high of $1.9 million set in 2012. Kalk said several major pipelines, natural gas plants and three wind farm projects in 2012 accounted for the record-setting year.
In 2002, the commission sited just $15,000 worth of projects, records show.
Randy Christmann and Julie Fedorchak joined the commission last year.
"To me, last year is the norm," Christmann said. "It was a good, busy year and I'm glad it was. There was a lot of good infrastructure built in the state and I think we will be at that pace into the future here."
Fedorchak said she expects 2014 to be similar to last year.
"I would not be surprised if we matched or exceeded 2013," she said.
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