It’s been a busy year-and-a-half for Julie Fedorchak. In January of 2013, the born-and-raised North Dakotan was appointed as one of the state’s three Public Service Commissioners by Gov. Jack Dalrymple. It’s been quite the ride serving as a leader of energy and natural resources in the fastest growing state in the nation, she told the Journal during an interview Monday.
“It’s been a fascinating, positive learning experience,” Fedorchak said of time serving on the three-member commission. “It’s an extremely dynamic agency and I am very proud to represent North Dakota as a Public Service Commissioner.”
She traveled to the region early this week to discuss the possibility of expanding natural gas opportunities in the Rugby area before traveling to Devils Lake for a special meet-and-greet Monday evening.
“It’s always great to meet with the people of this area and discuss any issues that they may be concerned with,” she said. “This is such a great region.”
One of the components of the position that has been a surprise for her has been the great amount of different jobs that the commission deals with on a daily basis. From agricultural, energy and telecommunication issues, the North Dakota Public Service Commission serves as an authority over multiple departments.
“It’s amazing how many different components there are to the position,” Fedorchak pointed out to the Journal. Much of the commission’s time in the last month, however, has had due to topics related to freight service and the railways.
Fedorchak and the state’s other commissioners have attended several meetings with officials from Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Canadian Pacific regarding a remarkably large backlog of available grain cars in North Dakota.
“While the Public Service Commission doesn’t regulate railroads, we owe it to our shippers and producers to fight for them,” she said. “The delay and lack of availability of railcars has been entirely inadequate and unacceptable.”
BNSF and Canadian Pacific representatives have told state officials that the rail situation will improve significantly in 2014 compared to the 2013 harvest. If that doesn’t happen, there is possibly legal action that can be taken, Fedorchak stated. “We are prepared to take the necessary steps to assure that shippers and producers are able to be provided the timeliest service possible,” she said.
Another issue that the commissioner touched on during her meet-and-greet Monday is currently a major issue in Devils Lake. She noted that the Public Service Commission has a great concern for safety on the railway.
“As far as transported goods go and from a public safety standpoint, we have a large stake in the railway even though the Federal Railway Administration oversees the train system,” Fedorchak, who oversees the rail portfolio for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, added.