Hey, look at that! Public Utilities Commission candidate Nick Nemec posted the complete video of last Saturday's State Fair PUC candidates' debate in Huron, South Dakota:

Now the South Dakota Farmers Union hosted this debate, so according to Rep. Kristi Noem, who inexcusably rejected their invitation to debate the issues with Democratic House candidate Matt Varilek earlier in the day, the event should have been rife with unfair, partisan questions.

Sure enough—check out the first question of the debate at 16:35:

What will you do as PUC Commissioner to throttle back EPA regulations on coal which has [sic] stifled energy production at South Dakota plants?

Holy cow! Who let the Otter Tail execs in to write that question?

Democrat Nemec doesn't take the "Burn everything!" bait. He says coal is on the way out, not because of EPA regulations, but because of market realities. Nemec refers to the "glut of natural gas" from North Dakota and elsewhere that is driving construction of cleaner, more efficient, more responsive gas-fired plants. He says that instead of propping up a declining coal industry, we should promote cleaner, safer forms of energy for South Dakota consumers and landowners.

Nemec's opponent, Republican sitting commissioner Chris Nelson, turns right back to the GOP saws about that darned Barack Obama promising to use bankrupt the coal industry with EPA regulations. Nelson admits that the primary threat, greenhouse gas regulations, don't exist (yet... and now Chris has me wondering if he'd have spent his time in Congress chasing imaginary regulations just like the woman who beat him for the job in the June 2010 primary). But he notes that consumers are paying for expensive pollution control measures at the coal plants that power South Dakota... and then time runs out before he can tell us what specifically he'll do to stop EPA regs. Watch that clock, Chris!

On the other side of the stage, Libertarian Russell Clarke, who's made the tussle between Democrat Matt McGovern and incumbent GOP appointee Kristie Fiegen, says Libertarians want less government. No duh. But this Libertarian is thinking: he says we have to do something to stop environmental destruction, and he recognizes the courts have to step in when the free market fails to make polluters pay for their damage. He says he'd work to push the regulations back, but he says he'd also ask the voters to tell him what they think of these regulations. In other words, Clarke confused both the people who know what Libertarians and those who don't.

Commissioner Fiegen said that protecting the pocketbooks of farmers and ranchers and families comes first. She says a dealer told her that the EPA is making combines more expensive. She said we have to include renewables in our portfolio, but that on a hot day last June, renewables were able to provide only 7% of the demand. Use lots of domestic energy, says Fiegen, and protect those pocketbooks!

McGovern says he doesn't agree with everything the EPA does, like its "heavy-handed" use of drone aircraft to identify environmental violations on feedlots (what? Come on, Matt, we gotta find that poop!). But then he cites Republican Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson as saying that the EPA's mercury regs were long overdue. He says he checked the coal industry website and found coal provides just 22% of South Dakota's power. He points to a new Basin Electric natural gas plant in Brookings County that will help us take advantage of those cheap gas prices and reliably supplement our wind energy generation.

And then McGovern crushes the question:

...The commissioners... are not members of Congress, they're not Senators, they're not the President. They really need to focus on what we can do in Pierre to help consumers and farmers, because when they get caught up too much in what's going on in Washington, D.C., it means that they're taking their eye off the ball and not looking out for consumers and farmers in South Dakota.

That's good advice for all South Dakota candidates: get off the EPA/ObamaCare bogeymen and focus on the practical local policymaking where you can make a real and immediate difference in South Dakota's well-being.