There is a new section on Basin Electric’s public website, www.basinelectric.com, called Legislative News that is meant to help our readers learn about what’s happening in Basin Electric’s service area. Last week, we heard from Chris VandeVenter. Today, we hear from Dale Niezwaag, Basin Electric senior legislative representative.
Tell us about your work in politics. I’ve been doing legislative work since 2000, all of it for Basin Electric.
What is your focus at Basin Electric? Right now I cover North Dakota and Iowa. Over the past 12 years I’ve had the opportunity to work in South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana.
The electric cooperatives of each state face different issues and rules they must follow. How do you work with the cooperatives of the states you represent? In North Dakota, we work closely with several organizations including the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric
Cooperatives, Lignite Energy Council and the governor’s EmPower Commission. In Iowa, we work very closely with and depend heavily on the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives team to keep us appraised of issues there.
What are the issues you will be watching for? In North Dakota, anything to do with easements and siting issues for pipelines and transmission lines. There have already been bills introduced that we have had to quickly respond to in order to avoid significant changes in how transmission lines are sited and approved in the state.
What gets you excited for the start of new legislative sessions? At the start of the
sessions there is more apprehension than excitement. For the first several weeks it’s simply controlled chaos. You are trying to get bills you want to introduce, written, sponsored and submitted, while at the same time, hundreds of bills are being introduced that have to be read and analyzed. At the same time hearings are being held that you have to confer with others on, then prepare for or testify at. Even though things are very hectic at the beginning of the sessions, I really enjoy working with the staff at Basin Electric, the other lobbyists in the states and the legislators because there is a huge amount of “how do we solve the problem” attitude involved. Everyone is under pressure to keep up with bills, information, hearings, and votes so it leads to a lot of stress and gratification when solutions are developed, agreed to and supported by legislators.