Legislative Pulse: South Dakota Pushes for Regulatory Control

Published January 4, 2018

Editor’s Note: South Dakota state Rep. Steve Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) has served in the state legislature since 2014 and has been in the private practice of law since 1983. Haugaard serves on the Health and Human Services, Interim Rules Review, and Judiciary Committees. He is also a member of the Bonding, Executive Board, and Public Safety Improvement Act Oversight Council.

Burnett: South Dakota joined 25 other states in suing to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan in federal court. The courts have halted the plan, and President Donald Trump is moving to end it. Do you support South Dakota’s decision to sue?

Haugaard: Absolutely, I support South Dakota’s decision to fight the plan.

Since the court action as well as President Trump’s efforts, the state Public Utilities Commission reports they are able to once again focus their attention on more productive matters.

Unfortunately, the Clean Power Plan failed to recognize the realities of our current electric generation systems as well as the vast improvements which have been made without the need for heavy-handed federal mandates. The Clean Power Plan would have adversely affected South Dakota more than most states in light of the fact approximately one-third of our electricity is generated by our only coal-fired power plant, the Big Stone Plant in northeastern South Dakota. That power plant is now owned by three power distribution companies and came on line in 1975. It has made necessary upgrades over the years, but the Clean Power Plan would have burdened South Dakota consumers with an unacceptable hike in electricity costs. These costs would have been due to the unnecessary plant modifications [required] to come into full compliance with the Clean Power Plan.

Burnett: Has South Dakota implemented any efforts to reduce pollution from electricity generation on its own?

Haugaard: The Bigstone Plant has already made necessary and beneficial improvements that accomplish the goals of a Clean Power Plan without the cost-prohibitive features which would have been imposed by the [Obama administration’s] plan. The coal consumed at the plant is rated as “subbituminous” and is readily available. The plant has already installed an air-quality control system including: (1) selective catalytic reduction; (2) a “baghouse” filtration system to remove dust particles before the gas is released, with a large portion of those particles being used for agricultural and construction purposes; and (3) an activated carbon injection process to remove mercury from the flue gas, which is then stored in a prepared disposal site.

So, all in all, the owners of production facilities such as Bigstone already recognize they need to be good neighbors and still generate a product that satisfies consumer demands. I think they have achieved that balance without the Clean Power Plan.

Also, South Dakota ranks near the top in renewable energy, producing nearly 7 percent of all the ethanol in the United States. Forty percent of our electricity is hydroelectric, solar is being added each year, and an ever-increasing percentage of our electrical power is produced by wind generation, which is a viable source on over 90 percent of our land. Clearly, South Dakota is doing its part in using all available resources.

Burnett: You’ve said one step to promote economic growth is for the government to impose less regulation. Recently Wisconsin enacted the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, making it the first state to require all major regulations proposed by administrative agencies be approved by the state’s legislature and signed by the governor before they may take effect. Do you think South Dakota should adopt similar legislation?

Haugaard: Yes, South Dakota does need to enhance its oversight of regulations, and to that end I have a bill, similar to Wisconsin’s REINS Act, in the works at this time.

I have been serving on our legislature’s Interim Rules Review Committee this year and have become even more painfully aware of the need to limit our grants of rulemaking authority to agencies and the need to review and restrain the rules that are proposed. Obviously, the legislature cannot micromanage all the agencies do, and we do need to repose a fair amount of trust in those agencies and their directors. However, it is also imperative we not lose control of the “reins” of any agency or we will have a runaway with unintended consequences.

Our state legislature is a part-time legislature. For most of us, that means we get part-time pay for what can be a nearly full-time job. But because of that part-time oversight, it is the nature of any governmental program to grow.

That is probably not an inherent evil, but is likely, and hopefully, the result of good employees seeking to do their best and finding new ways to enhance their role and accomplish what they believe to be their mission. That thought always brings to mind a paraphrase of one of Ronald Reagan’s statements: There is nothing closer to eternal life in this world than a government bureau.

I think the REINS type of legislation will keep the legislature more fully engaged in the actions of the agencies we set in motion.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Official Connections:

State Rep. Steve Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls): http://sdlegislature.gov/legislators/legislators/MemberDetail.aspx?Session=2017&Member=1142&Cleaned=True; [email protected]