Yesterday on the radio show I hosted a debate between Public Service Commission candidates Julie Fedorchak, a Republican, and Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, a Democrat and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
I invited Libertarian candidate Tom Skadeland to participate but he declined.
What surprised me about the discussion was how little the two candidates disagreed on outside of the issues surrounding the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I am impressed and admire Julie’s safety initiatives,” Hunte-Beaubrun said when the discussion turned to fail safety. Last year Fedorchak lobbied for and received state funding for rail safety inspectors to compliment federal personnel. “I think she’s done a great job on this,” Hunte-Beaubrun continued.
The two also agreed that communication was a good approach to addressing the chronic power outages which have plagued the Fargo area.
But where the two disagreed was on the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Hunte-Beaubrun said that, if elected, she would bring diversity to the PSC and called for a permanent Native American member of the commission.
“Nobody understands our issues like we do,” she said, arguing that there should be a permanent seat on the commission given to a representative from one of the state’s five tribes, if not one seat for every tribe. She said right now the PSC’s communication with the tribe on matters such as pipelines is “non-existent.”
I’m not sure we want to start using racial litmus tests to qualify people for office, and Fedorchak sharply disagreed with the assertion that the PSC doesn’t reach out to the tribes.
“We need to step back and remember that all three members of the Public Service Commission represent all North Dakotans, including Native Americans,” she said.
She also said “the tribes didn’t come to the table” during the approval process for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Fedrochak said the Standing Rock Tribe, specifically, was notified through North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis, and noted that to date Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault still hasn’t had a direct communication about the pipeline with the PSC.
“The chairman never called, emailed, or wrote a letter,” Fedorchak said. “Not a single piece of communication.”
“It comes down to where the responsibility and accountability lies,” she added. “We notified the tribe about this.”
If elected, Hunte-Beaubrun said she would “spend the next six years being inclusive of everyone in the state.”
Fedorchak said that if she wins the election she hopes to help the state’s power producers adapt to changing federal regulations so that power remains “affordable for rate payers.”
UPDATE: Originally this post described Hunte-Beaubrun as a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes. That was incorrect. She is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The post has been edited to fix that mistake.
Here’s the full audio: