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Hydrogen pipelines one step closer to being regulated by the PUC

Brent Duerre

The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee has advanced a bill providing more regulatory authority to the Public Utilities Commission.

House Bill 1034 aims to give the PUC authority over hydrogen pipelines.

Chris Nelson is a PUC Commissioner. He pitched the bill to the committee Tuesday.

“The Biden administration has created the concept of hydrogen hubs and is pouring a ton of money into this particular concept to spur hydrogen development. One of those hubs is called the Heartland Hydrogen Hub and that is being coordinated by the University of North Dakota. It is meant to cover the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota,” said Nelson.

He said adding hydrogen pipelines to the list of projects needing a PUC permit is in anticipation of what is to come.

Nelson said hydrogen pipelines would offer electricity generation or fertilizer production.

Sen. Steve Kolbeck voiced his doubts in the PUC’s ability to provide oversight to another pipeline project.

“You’ve got one of the smallest staffs in the nation. Ok, so, I think the logical question is, now you are asking for a little more regulatory authority, do you see this as a heavy burden on your staff? Or is it kind of hard to predict what your load is going to be in the future? That you could reasonably accommodate this,” said Kolbeck.

Nelson answered saying the PUC does not desire more work. But he said the regulation of a hydrogen pipeline by the PUC makes sense.

After a failed attempt to kill the bill, the committeevoted do-pass 5 to 3.

It now heads to the floor.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.