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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Johnson vs. Karpen for PUC: Who Will Stand Up to Big Oil?

We have a Public Utilities Commission race! We knew incumbent commissioner Dusty Johnson was running, but yesterday the eager Republican sent out a pleasant official announcement (quoted below).

Just announced at last weekend's McGovern Day in Rapid City: a Democrat challenger! Union County Commission chairman Doyle Karpen has thrown his hat in the ring.

Back that up: Union County Commission? As in, the fellas who have been voting consistently along the Hyperion corporate line?

Yeah. Those guys. Karpen has said the Hyperion refinery could be "fantastic"* for the state. For Karpen's public comments on Hyperion are all about the boost in tax revenue and jobs. Karpen joined the unanimous commission vote approving the Hyperion rezoning application and ordinance, under circumstances that one lawyer contended were improper, given the significant amendments that occurred between first and second reading. He was involved in the county's effort to use signage ordinances to stifle free speech during the 2008 county election concerning the Hyperion permit. On his own campaign website, Karpen maintains a conspicuously careful neutrality on the proposed refinery. He also doesn't appear to have much of a sense of humor... at least not when the joke is on Hyperion.

And we Democrats are supposed to get excited about a PUC candidate who's done the bidding of Big Oil? Hmmm... doesn't look like we'll be getting anyone to challenge Johnson's votes for the TransCanada pipelines any time soon.

Yes, there are plenty of other issues for our PUC candidates to debate. But Karpen's record on Hyperion dampens my passion for taking the fight to Dusty.

Karpen and Johnson are both on Facebook. Current fan count: advantage Johnson, 659 to 31.

=======Johnson Press Release=======
Mitchell, SD – Dustin “Dusty” Johnson, the chairman of the state Public Utilities Commission, has officially announced he will seek a second six-year term on the PUC. Johnson says he has successfully kept the promises he made to voters during his first term.

Johnson was elected to his first term in 2004 and has served as the PUC’s chairman in 2007, 2009, and 2010. In his six years on the PUC he has become a recognized leader in working to develop renewable energy resources, expand internet access and cell phone reception, keep utility rates low, and protect consumers.

“Politicians are good at making promises; they aren’t always good at keeping them. Over the last six years, I’ve made good on the commitments I made to voters in 2004. We’ve seen a nearly 1,000 percent increase in wind power, hundreds of new cell phone towers, and thousands of South Dakotans have gained access to high-speed Internet for the first time,” Johnson said. “A common-sense regulatory environment helped make that progress a reality.”

Johnson’s website (www.JohnsonforPUC.com) lists seven areas he promises to focus on in the next six years, including green energy development, energy efficiency, and consumer protection. He believes that with hard work, South Dakota will be able to take advantage of significant opportunities over the next few years.

“From wind power to ethanol to a strong rural broadband network, we have the pieces in place to continue to create jobs and improve the lives of consumers,” Johnson said. “The PUC has helped to lay that groundwork and I am excited to keep working on these issues that impact the lives of families and businesses in South Dakota every day.”

Johnson has been a strong voice for South Dakota consumers. He was the only utilities commissioner in the country to testify before a U.S. Senate committee on how the cap-and-trade legislation would impact consumers. He has served as the lead commissioner on the PUC’s “South Dakota Energy Smart,” an effort promoting energy efficiency, as well as on the PUC’s “Small Renewable Energy Initiative,” designed to encourage small wind and solar projects. Additionally, Johnson serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

The political parties will select their nominees for the PUC at state party conventions in June. Voters will then elect one person to the PUC in the general election this November. The Public Utilities Commission has three members elected statewide to staggered six-year terms.

Johnson lives in Pierre and Mitchell. He is married with two children and is involved with numerous state and local community service projects. Those interested in more information can visit www.JohnsonforPUC.com or the campaign Facebook page facebook.com/dustyforsd.

=======Karpen Press Release=======
A proud native South Dakotan, Doyle is running for PUC because he believes it's time to refocus the office on its intended purpose - that of consumer advocacy. The commission was established to protect the South Dakota public and to require utility companies to treat consumers with fairness in implementation of procedures and rates. Doyle wants South Dakotans to receive high quality, safe and reliable public services at fair and affordable rates.

Doyle was raised on a farm in rural Jefferson home by his father, Merlyn, cattleman, farmer, well driller and grain dealer, and his mother, Arlene, teacher and tutor. He studied at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, earning a Bachelor's degree in Math. Doyle married Deborah Iversen of Gettysburg, SD in 1977. Doyle and Deb reside in Jefferson, SD and have three daughters.

Upon graduation, he worked with his father in the well drilling business and Karpen Grain Co. Karpen Grain Co. is a small agri-business company which serves farmers in Southeast South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska. Doyle facilitates grain transactions between farmers and the grain terminals and provides transportation of the grain from farm to market.

In addition to a full time job as a self employed small businessman, he’s built a secondary career as public servant serving Union County for nearly two decades. From 1979-1984, Doyle served as the Civil Bend Township as Clerk - a job which required him to conduct Township elections, manage township revenue and expenditures and prepare the annual budget.

He served on the Elk Point Jefferson School board for 9 years (from 1995 to 2004),four of which he served as President. Doyle is in his second term serving on the Union County Board of Commissioners. Union County is in the Southeastern-most county which borders Iowa and Nebraska. He has held the position of Chairman since 2007.

*Update 2010.06.25: KSFY has nuked the link. The original story in which Karpen referred to the Hyperion refinery as fantastic was called "Hyperion Gets Approval," KSFY.com, June 3, 2010. The pertinent text read as follows (as retrieved from Google Cache):

Voters said 'Yes" by a margin of more than a thousand votes. People on all sides of this divisive issue say it was a tough decision. Union County Commission Chairman, Doyle Karpen, says, "environmentally, people have concerns, and at the same time economically, if everything works out the way they say it will, it will be fantastic for the area, the county, the region, the whole state.

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