Commitment to Cooperative and Workforce
Basin Electric has long known the nation is moving toward a carbon-constrained future, and the cooperative has been engaged in all levels of energy politics to ensure its members’ interests are represented.
A significant dilemma for utilities in recent years is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP). Though the final rule was overwhelming, it followed the path already paved by numerous other regulations for future energy generation. Basin Electric remains at the forefront of this issue and others to ensure the cooperative, its membership, and employees are poised for the future.
As written, the CPP presents challenges for electric generators and communities. Of the 13 states hit the hardest by it, eight are in Basin Electric’s service territory. Compounding the problem is the required two-thirds compliance by 2022. As proposed, the CPP gave Basin Electric no credit for recent investments in natural gas generation or renewable resources, nor Basin Electric’s carbon sequestration efforts through Dakota Gas.
On Jan. 21, 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court denied all of the petitions and motions for stay of the CPP and implemented an expedited briefing schedule. Basin Electric joined with about 60 utilities to file a motion to stay with the U.S. Supreme Court. And, in February, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move stayed the rule, halting implementation until litigation is complete.
Briefings followed and initially a three-judge panel was slated to hear oral arguments. But, in another first, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled oral arguments to be heard before the entire court.
Oral arguments were held Sept. 27, 2016, and the Supreme Court has not yet made a decision. However, President Donald Trump signed an executive order March 28, 2017, directing the EPA to review the CPP and other greenhouse gas regulations for the power sector. The action is a positive step forward in the cooperative’s efforts to seek time and flexibility in the development of a carbon management plan.
Basin Electric is actively seeking solutions that reduce its carbon footprint while keeping coal as part of its energy portfolio, preserving both reliability and cost competitiveness of the cooperative’s energy supply.
Additionally, Basin Electric has been engaged in further developing its political and community support for the last several years.
In 2016, this included a number of senate letters supporting repeal of the CPP; and the development of the Energy States Coalition that has attorneys general from states coming together to evaluate regulations.
Safety continues to have the highest value throughout the cooperative. Basin Electric’s Our Power, My Safety (OPMS) process established continuous improvement (CI) initiatives to engage employees in the effort of improving everyone’s safety, both at work and home.
CI #1 focused on improved work area inspections at every Basin Electric facility. The team completed its work in 2016, but the initiative continues to develop and grow at each facility. CI #2 focused on improving safety meetings and communications and was implemented at all facilities. Each facility is now building and improving the quality of their meetings.
CI #3 is developing with a focus on education about OPMS. That initiative rolls out in 2017. The CI #4 team began at the close of 2016 and the focus is safety metrics.
With full support from Basin Electric’s senior leadership, employees work hard and are fully committed to improving Basin Electric’s safety culture.
Efforts to strengthen the employee base coincide with efforts to strengthen ties to the members. It’s important employees understand the members are the foundation of the cooperative.
To further this, Basin Electric launched the Building Cooperative Connections program with the goal of providing employees with first-hand experience of what it is like to work at a distribution cooperative and on the flip side, what it is like to work at a generation and transmission cooperative.
Administratively, staff reviewed governance and board policies. Basin Electric’s board engaged in the process while staff worked to simplify and streamline the structure of policies and procedures across the cooperative.
The expansion of the Headquarters building continues with three goals. The first, to get all employees under one roof. More than 550 employees in Bismarck are spread out among four different locations. Second, to build an addition to accommodate growth and needs into the future, and third, to provide an environment that matches employees’ needs with technology and collaborative design.
The new working environment will increase employee engagement, enable formal and informal interaction, and enhance communication in the workplace. Headquarters West is expected to be complete September 2017.
An informed and engaged workforce is a strong workforce, and the cooperative’s best asset. Maintaining the competitive edge in employee recruitment and retention was a focus in 2016. A bubble of employee retirements is again approaching, so staff is working to prepare.
This proactive approach includes interacting with potential employees long before they enter the workforce through college career fairs, employee participation in school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program activities, and science center programs.
Basin Electric also works with local colleges in the region, to pair their students with internship opportunities within the cooperative. Each year, Basin Electric employs approximately 70 interns, and also offers a summer work program for sons and daughters of employees, designed to assist supervisors with summer workloads while giving students exposure to cooperative jobs and culture. These positions include laborers, clerical, technical, and professional positions.
Basin Electric is helping students gain experience in advance of completing their degrees through newly signed apprenticeship agreements. The cooperative partnered with Bismarck State College’s (BSC) National Energy Center of Excellence to create apprenticeship programs at the Antelope Valley and Leland Olds stations. The programs were developed for three trades: instrumentation and control technician, mechanical maintenance technician, and laboratory technician. In addition, the cooperative partnered with BSC and signed a mechanical maintenance apprenticeship agreement for the Laramie River Station.
When a new employee is hired, an improved orientation program incorporating the cooperative’s history helps set the foundation for a career of continual learning with a curriculum and structure that expands employee orientation from two days to an 18- to 24-month program.
An employee continuous learning series, called People. Power. Purpose., evolved throughout the year. Live stream learning sessions are held monthly and provide foundational knowledge of departments and issues the cooperative is tackling.
Another program rolling out in early 2017 is BE Leaders. It’s a program for employees to prepare for future leadership roles.
Through the development and implementation of these programs, staff was mindful of the cooperative’s austerity program. In consideration, special efforts to review and bid employee benefit programs were pursued, and staff identified cost savings by further utilizing the cooperative’s contracted physician. Medical services staff began offering care to dependents of employees in addition to the care they are providing to employees at a cost savings to Basin Electric.
Direct inquiries about jobs or internships at Basin Electric's North Dakota facilities to:
Human Resources Division
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
1717 East Interstate Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58503-0564 USA
Phone: 701.223.0441 (ask for Human Resources)
Aug. 3, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency released its Clean Power Plan.
Oct. 23, 2015, the Clean Power Plan was published in the Federal Register.
Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Basin Electric and several other petitioners' Motion to Stay the Clean Power Plan.
March 28, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, and establishing a process to repeal or revise the rule.
Go to the Clean Power Plan 111(d) page for our review of the plan and why it won't work for Basin Electric.
In May, at the invitation of U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) (far right), Janice Schneider (far left), assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management with the Department of the Interior, visited the The Coteau Properties Company Freedom Mine operations. Staff took her into the field and showed her the direct impacts the Stream Protection Rule would have on the Freedom Mine. Also pictured in the foreground is U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (center).
In December, the rule became final threatening detrimental impacts on mining operations. However, in January 2017, Congress overturned the rule on repeal.