Two PSC Commissioners Present Conflict of Interest in South Heart Coal Mine Permit Review
March 27, 2012
The Dakota Resource Council and the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club have called out Public Service Commissioners Kevin Cramer and Brian Kalk for accepting improper campaign contributions from representatives of the South Heart Coal Mine.
Conflict of interest provisions in federal surface mining regulations expressly prohibit state PSC commissioners from accepting money from the same mining companies that they regulate.
South Heart Coal is seeking a permit from the PSC to create a coal-to-hydrogen plant and associated 4,600-acre mine near South Heart in western North Dakota.
According to campaign finance disclosures made by Kalk and Cramer, Cramer accepted $11,150 in donations from 2008 to 2010 and Kalk received $5,500 between 2008 and 2009.
Sierra Club and the Dakota Resource Council filed a 60-day notice of intent to file a federal civil lawsuit on Monday, March 26. The organizations requested not only that Cramer and Kalk be removed from deliberations but that they return the campaign contributions.
“When public officials take money from those who will benefit from their decisions, it means our government isn’t working the way it should,” Wayde Schafer of the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club said in a statement.
The question is whether Cramer and Kalk can be fair and balanced about the project, which has raised concerns about its environmental impact and its proximity to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Cramer and Kalk ignored a previous request to recuse themselves voluntarily.
“We are now taking the next step to make sure that mining companies don’t have the opportunity to simply buy their way into a permit,” Schafer said.
Details and Documents:
Forum Editorial: Of course, PSC suit is political
May 31, 2012, Inforum
Our Opinion: Lawsuit lurks in background of House race
April 5, 2012 by Tom Dennis, Grand Forks Herald
Two N.D. organizations threaten lawsuit against two Public Service Commissioners
March 27, 2012 by Teri Finneman, Grand Forks Herald
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.