Friends, family and state employees gathered Friday afternoon for former North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark's swearing in as the newest member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Clark told a crowd of more than 100 gathered in Memorial Hall in the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., that he was proud to have been able to serve the state for the past 18 years.
"It will be an honor to continue to do so in Washington," Clark said. He had resigned earlier in the day from the PSC.
The FERC is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. The five-member board also reviews requests for energy infrastructure, including interstate pipelines and hydropower projects.
Clark, after being sworn into his four-year term by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he held the swearing-in ceremony in Bismarck rather than in Washington, D.C., for a number of reasons. Not only was it easier for those who gathered to attend, but he hoped it would "send a message" as to how he intends to approach the job, Clark said.
In Washington, he intends on having a nuanced, balanced approach as a regulator, he said.
"There are some things that only the federal government can do," Clark said.
However, he said, with the nation's diversity it's also important to work with state regulators and show respect to individual states during the decision-making process.
Clark said the nation is in a unique position in terms of energy production. He said the nation has the choice of pursuing energy independence and having a comprehensive energy policy the way North Dakota worked to do. On the other hand, he said, the nation could choose to not build pipelines or infrastructure and end up being dependent on other nations for energy.
"After so many years, we can actually choose our energy future," Clark said. "We just need to choose wisely."
Gov. Jack Dalrymple praised Clark for his service to the state. Clark was a member of the state House of Representatives from 1994-97 and then state labor commissioner under Gov. Ed Schafer. Clark was elected to the first of his two six-year PSC terms in 2000. In 2010, he was elected to a one-year term as president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
"The nation is fortunate that his knowledge and leadership will now help guide the oversight of our country's energy transmission," Dalrymple said.
Clark's fellow public service commissioners, Kevin Cramer and Brian Kalk, were on hand to wish him luck in Washington.
Cramer said Clark's colleagues will miss him and the work he's done.
"Our loss is a great blessing to the nation," Cramer said.
Kalk said Clark's skills as a state regulator will be put to great use on the federal level. He said Clark and his wife, Amy, will be very successful in Washington.
"You are going to be great ambassadors for the state of North Dakota," Kalk said.
Clark fills a vacancy left by Marc Spitzer of Arizona, who resigned in December. The slot on the FERC is reserved for a Republican. The board has three positions for people who are of the same political party as the president and two for the minority party.
Hoeven submitted Clark's name for the FERC roughly a year ago to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. President Barack Obama submitted Clark's name for nomination in January. He was confirmed by the full U.S. Senate on May 24.