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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 30, 2011
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, deputy executive director, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201 or (605) 280-4327

South Dakota PUC urges FERC action to evaluate EPA regulations

PIERRE, S.D. –The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission filed comments with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week asking FERC to study how regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency will impact the reliability and affordability of electricity. The PUC urges FERC to establish one or more joint boards comprised of federal and state representatives, including a board for South Dakota and the Upper Midwest region.

The South Dakota PUC joins the South Carolina PUC and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in demanding FERC use its resources and expertise to study the potential negative impact on the nation's electric grid that could occur as a result of recent EPA regulations.

"Studying the effects of EPA's regulations is a shared responsibility of FERC and state public utility commissions. States cannot conduct this analysis alone because the impacts of EPA's regulations are experienced regionally and nationally," states the letter to FERC sent by PUC commissioners Gary Hanson, Chris Nelson and Kristie Fiegen.

The PUC further pointed out that numerous proposed EPA regulations that will become effective over a very compressed time frame have the potential to cause the premature retirement of a number of generating facilities in the Midwest, creating serious reliability and economic consequences. Approximately 70 percent of the electricity used by South Dakotans is generated by coal-fired power plants.

Hanson, the commission's chairman, expressed disappointment with FERC's inaction related to the EPA's process. "FERC's refusal to address the reliability issues of the new EPA regulations is going to cause havoc," he said. "I am very concerned about our environment but that does not mean we can simply arbitrarily close down electric generation facilities without having a comprehensive plan on how electricity will be provided to our citizens," Hanson said.

PUC Vice Chairman Nelson emphasized the need for the two federal agencies to work together and with affected stakeholders. "It is imperative that state regulators and members of the electric industry be part of this analysis," he said. "It's very troubling that FERC and the EPA have not recognized the value these frontline voices can bring to the process and even more troubling those folks in Washington are dismissing the huge detrimental impact these regulations can have on citizens," he concluded.

"Clearly, this is an important issue that can significantly impact many states," stated PUC Commissioner Fiegen. "Electric service interruptions are serious and, as we've seen in South Dakota, can have far-reaching repercussions especially in the winter months. We need assurance from the federal regulators that their actions strive to protect the integrity of and not harm electric reliability," she said.

In its closing written comments to FERC, the PUC stated: "There is no excuse if the lights go out because of poor government decision-making that could have been avoided if the responsible areas of government had properly coordinated with each other."