HURON — When Kristie Fiegen was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Public Utilities Commission in 2011, the three-member panel spent the lion’s share of its time dealing with federal regulations, she said Monday.
“It seemed like every week there was a new regulation from the federal government,” she said at the weekly Beadle County Republican Party campaign luncheon.
But the Republican White House in the last two years and President Trump’s desire to eliminate many of those regulations has made a difference, Fiegen said.
“There is not one regulation that has come to the PUC in the last two years where we had to increase rates,” she said. “It is such a relief.”
Fiegen, a former member of the state Legislature, is seeking re-election to a second six-year term next month. She currently serves as vice chair of the PUC, alongside Gary Hanson and Chris Nelson.
Under the Obama administration, states’ rights were being shifted to the federal government, she said. “So we lost a lot of regulatory authority as a Public Utilities Commission,” Fiegen said.
With passage of the federal tax cuts last December, customers of investor-owned utilities in South Dakota are receiving refunds.
In September, the PUC announced it had reached a settlement agreement with NorthWestern Energy, in which $3 million would be returned to customers and rate hikes would be frozen until 2021.
The average residential electric customer will receive an $18 refund while residential natural gas consumers will realize a $9 refund on average.
Meanwhile, Fiegen said more and more places are enjoying high-speed internet.
She also promoted the gubernatorial candidacy of Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who shared the speaker’s podium at the Monday luncheon.
Noem’s experience and understanding of Washington, D.C., and her connections will be an extremely important asset to have as the state’s next governor, Fiegen said. Issues such as infrastructure and finding ways to keep high school graduates from going out of state for college and careers will be crucial, she said.
“Twenty-two percent of Americans now do 100 percent of their jobs from home, or at least a portion from home, because of high-speed internet,” she said.
“That’s going to continue to increase,” Fiegen said. “That’s why I think it’s very important to have somebody with connections.”