The Company is a diversified natural resource company, which was incorporated under the laws of the state of Delaware in 1924. Its principal executive offices are at 1200 West Century Avenue, P.O. Box 5650, Bismarck, North Dakota 58506-5650, telephone (701) 530-1000.
Montana-Dakota, through the electric and natural gas distribution segments, generates, transmits and distributes electricity and distributes natural gas in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Cascade distributes natural gas in Oregon and Washington. Intermountain distributes natural gas in Idaho. Great Plains distributes natural gas in western Minnesota and southeastern North Dakota. These operations also supply related value-added products and services.
The Company, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Centennial, owns WBI Holdings (comprised of the pipeline and energy services and the natural gas and oil production segments), Knife River (construction materials and contracting segment), MDU Construction Services (construction services segment), Centennial Resources and Centennial Capital (both reflected in the Other category).
The Company's equity method investment in the Brazilian Transmission Lines, as discussed in Item 8 – Note 4, is reflected in the Other category. As of December 31, 2009, the Company had 8,081 employees with 158 employed at MDU Resources Group, Inc., 874 at Montana-Dakota, 31 at Great Plains, 329 at Cascade, 264 at Intermountain, 603 at WBI Holdings, 2,879 at Knife River and 2,943 at MDU Construction Services. The number of employees at certain Company operations fluctuates during the year depending upon the number and size of construction projects. The Company considers its relations with employees to be satisfactory.
At Montana-Dakota and Williston Basin, 365 and 80 employees, respectively, are represented by the IBEW. Labor contracts with such employees are in effect through May 30, 2011, and March 31, 2011, for Montana-Dakota and Williston Basin, respectively.
At Cascade, 201 employees are represented by the ICWU. The labor contract with the field operations group, consisting of 169 employees, is effective through April 1, 2012. Cascade has an agreement with the bargaining unit consisting of 32 customer service representatives and credit and collections clerks in effect through March 19, 2011.
At Intermountain, 114 employees are represented by the UA. Labor contracts with such employees are in effect through September 30, 2010. Knife River has 43 labor contracts that represent approximately 440 of its construction materials employees. Knife River is in negotiations on five of its labor contracts.
MDU Construction Services has 126 labor contracts representing the majority of its employees. The majority of the labor contracts contain provisions that prohibit work stoppages or strikes and provide for binding arbitration dispute resolution in the event of an extended disagreement.
The Company's principal properties, which are of varying ages and are of different construction types, are generally in good condition, are well maintained and are generally suitable and adequate for the purposes for which they are used.
The operations of the Company and certain of its subsidiaries are subject to federal, state and local laws and regulations providing for air, water and solid waste pollution control; state facility-siting regulations; zoning and planning regulations of certain state and local authorities; federal health and safety regulations and state hazard communication standards. The Company believes that it is in substantial compliance with these regulations, except as to what may be ultimately determined with regard to items discussed in Environmental matters in Item 8 – Note 19. There are no pending CERCLA actions for any of the Company's properties, other than the Portland, Oregon, Harbor Superfund Site.
The Company produces GHG emissions primarily from its fossil fuel electric generating facilities, as well as from natural gas pipeline and storage systems, operations of equipment and fleet vehicles, and oil and natural gas exploration and development activities. GHG emissions also result from customer use of natural gas for heating and other uses. As concern for reductions in GHG emissions and expansion of renewable energy resources has increased, the Company has placed an increasing emphasis on developing renewable generation resources. Governmental legislative and regulatory initiatives regarding environmental and energy policy are continuously evolving and could negatively impact the Company’s operations and financial results. Until legislation and regulation are finalized, the impact of these measures cannot be accurately predicted. The Company will continue to monitor legislative activity related to environmental and energy policy initiatives. Disclosure regarding specific environmental matters applicable to each of the Company's businesses is set forth under each business description later.
This annual report on Form 10-K, the Company's quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, the Company's current reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act are available free of charge through the Company's Web site as soon as reasonably practicable after the Company has electronically filed such reports with, or furnished such reports to, the SEC. The Company's Web site address is www.mdu.com. The information available on the Company's Web site is not part of this annual report on Form 10-K.
General Montana-Dakota provides electric service at retail, serving more than 122,000 residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers in 177 communities and adjacent rural areas as of December 31, 2009. The principal properties owned by Montana-Dakota for use in its electric operations include interests in nine electric generating facilities, as further described under System Supply, System Demand and Competition, and approximately 3,000 and 4,600 miles of transmission and distribution lines, respectively. Montana-Dakota has obtained and holds, or is in the process of renewing, valid and existing franchises authorizing it to conduct its electric operations in all of the municipalities it serves where such franchises are required. Montana-Dakota intends to protect its service area and seek renewal of all expiring franchises. As of December 31, 2009, Montana-Dakota's net electric plant investment approximated $514.5 million.
The percentage of Montana-Dakota's 2009 retail electric utility operating revenues by jurisdiction is as follows: North Dakota – 58 percent; Montana – 24 percent; Wyoming – 11 percent; and South Dakota – 7 percent. Retail electric rates, service, accounting and certain security issuances are subject to regulation by the NDPSC, MTPSC, SDPUC and WYPSC. The interstate transmission and wholesale electric power operations of Montana-Dakota also are subject to regulation by the FERC under provisions of the Federal Power Act, as are interconnections with other utilities and power generators, the issuance of securities, accounting and other matters. Montana-Dakota participates in the Midwest ISO wholesale energy and ancillary services market. The Midwest ISO is a regional transmission organization responsible for operational control of the transmission systems of its members. The Midwest ISO provides security center operations, tariff administration and operates day-ahead and real-time energy markets and an ancillary services market. As a member of Midwest ISO, Montana-Dakota's generation is sold into the Midwest ISO energy market and its energy needs are purchased from that market.
System Supply, System Demand and Competition Through an interconnected electric system, Montana-Dakota serves markets in portions of western North Dakota, including Bismarck, Dickinson and Williston; eastern Montana, including Glendive and Miles City; and northern South
Dakota, including Mobridge. The interconnected system consists of nine electric generating facilities, which have an aggregate nameplate rating attributable to Montana-Dakota's interest of 463,055 kW and a total summer net capability of 486,900 kW. Montana-Dakota's four principal generating stations are steam-turbine generating units using coal for fuel. The nameplate rating for Montana-Dakota's ownership interest in these four stations (including interests in the Big Stone Station and the Coyote Station, aggregating 22.7 percent and 25.0 percent, respectively) is 327,758 kW. Three combustion turbine peaking stations, a wind electric generating facility and a heat recovery electric generating facility supply the balance of Montana-Dakota's interconnected system electric generating capability.
In September 2005, Montana-Dakota entered into a contract for seasonal capacity from a neighboring utility, starting at 85 MW in 2007, increasing to 105 MW in 2011, with an option for capacity in 2012. In April 2007, Montana-Dakota entered into a contract for seasonal capacity of 10 MW in May through October of each year continuing through 2010. In August 2009, Montana-Dakota entered into a contract for capacity of 110 MW, 115 MW and 120 MW annually for the three-year period from June 1 to May 31, 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. Energy also will be purchased as needed from the Midwest ISO market. In 2009, Montana-Dakota purchased approximately 17 percent of its net kWh needs for its interconnected system through the Midwest ISO market.
Virtually all of the current fuel requirements of the Coyote, Heskett and Lewis & Clark stations are met with coal supplied by subsidiaries of Westmoreland under contracts that expire in May 2016, April 2011 and December 2012, respectively. The Coyote coal supply agreement provides for the purchase of coal necessary to supply the coal requirements of the Coyote Station or 30,000 tons per week, whichever may be the greater quantity at contracted pricing. The maximum quantity of coal during the term of the agreement, and any extension, is 75 million tons. The Heskett and Lewis & Clark coal supply agreements provide for the purchase of coal necessary
to supply the coal requirements of these stations at contracted pricing. Montana-Dakota estimates the Heskett and Lewis & Clark coal requirement to be in the range of 500,000 to 600,000 tons, and 250,000 to 350,000 tons per contract year, respectively.
Montana-Dakota has a coal supply agreement, which meets the majority of the Big Stone Station’s fuel requirements, for the purchase of 1.0 million tons of coal in 2010 with Kennecott at contracted pricing.
The maximum electric peak demand experienced to date attributable to sales to retail customers on the interconnected system was 525,643 kW in July 2007. Montana-Dakota's latest forecast for its interconnected system indicates that its annual peak will continue to occur during the summer and the peak demand growth rate through 2015 will approximate two percent annually.
Montana-Dakota expects that it has secured adequate capacity available through existing baseload generating stations, renewable generation, turbine peaking stations, demand reduction programs and firm contracts to meet the peak customer demand requirements of its customers through mid-2015. Future capacity that is needed to replace contracts and meet system growth requirements is expected to be met by constructing new generation resources or acquiring additional capacity through power contracts. For additional information regarding potential power generation projects, see Item 7 – MD&A – Prospective Information – Electric.
Montana-Dakota has major interconnections with its neighboring utilities and considers these interconnections adequate for coordinated planning, emergency assistance, exchange of capacity and energy and power supply reliability.
Through the Sheridan System, Montana-Dakota serves Sheridan, Wyoming, and neighboring communities. The maximum peak demand experienced to date attributable to Montana-Dakota sales to retail customers on that system was approximately 60,600 kW in July 2007. Montana-Dakota has a power supply contract with Black Hills Power to purchase up to 74,000 kW of capacity annually through December 31, 2016. On April 9, 2009, Montana-Dakota exercised an option to purchase a 25 percent interest in the Wygen III electric generating facility under construction by Black Hills Power to serve a portion of the needs of its Sheridan-area customers. The plant is expected to be commercial in the second quarter of 2010, and will replace 25 MW of capacity and energy purchased under the power supply contract. Montana-Dakota received a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the WYPSC on July 29, 2008, for ownership of Wygen III.
Montana-Dakota is subject to competition in varying degrees, in certain areas, from rural electric cooperatives, on-site generators, co-generators and municipally owned systems. In addition, competition in varying degrees exists between electricity and alternative forms of energy such as natural gas.
Regulatory Matters and Revenues Subject to Refund Fuel adjustment clauses contained in North Dakota and South Dakota jurisdictional electric rate schedules allow Montana-Dakota to reflect monthly increases or decreases in fuel and purchased power costs (excluding demand charges). In North Dakota, the Company is deferring electric fuel and purchased power costs (excluding demand charges) that are greater or less than amounts presently being recovered through its existing rate schedules. In Montana, a monthly Fuel and Purchased Power Tracking Adjustment mechanism allows Montana-Dakota to reflect 90 percent of the increases or decreases in fuel and purchased power costs (including demand charges) and Montana-Dakota is deferring 90 percent of costs that are greater or less than amounts presently being recovered through its existing rate schedules. In Wyoming, an annual Electric Power Supply Cost Adjustment mechanism allows Montana-Dakota to reflect increases or decreases in fuel and purchased power costs (including demand charges) related to power supply and Montana-Dakota is deferring costs that are greater or less than amounts presently being recovered through its existing rate schedules. Such orders generally provide that these amounts are recoverable or refundable through rate adjustments within a period ranging from 14 to 25 months from the time such costs are paid. For additional information, see Item 8 – Note 6.
Montana-Dakota's electric generating facilities have Title V Operating Permits, under the Clean Air Act, issued by the states in which they operate. Each of these permits has a five-year life. Near the expiration of these permits, renewal applications are submitted. Permits continue in force beyond the expiration date, provided the application for renewal is submitted by the required date, usually six months prior to expiration. Title V Operating Permits for the Big Stone Station and the Lewis & Clark Station were renewed in 2009. In August 2009, an application for renewal of the Heskett Station Title V Operating Permit was submitted. On February 25, 2009, a Montana Air Quality Permit application was granted for the Lewis & Clark Station to obtain a mercury emissions limit and approve its proposed mercury emissions control strategy.
State water discharge permits issued under the requirements of the Clean Water Act are maintained for power production facilities on the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. These permits also have five-year lives. Montana-Dakota renews these permits as necessary prior to expiration. Other permits held by these facilities may include an initial siting permit, which is typically a one-time, preconstruction permit issued by the state; state permits to dispose of combustion by-products; state authorizations to withdraw water for operations; and Army Corps permits to construct water intake structures. Montana-Dakota's Army Corps permits grant one-time permission to construct and do not require renewal. Other permit terms vary and the permits are renewed as necessary.
Montana-Dakota's electric operations are conditionally exempt small-quantity hazardous waste generators and subject only to minimum regulation under the RCRA. Montana-Dakota routinely handles PCBs from its electric operations in accordance with federal requirements. PCB storage areas are registered with the EPA as required.
In June 2008, the Sierra Club filed a complaint in the South Dakota Federal District Court against Montana-Dakota and the two other co-owners of the Big Stone Station. For more information regarding this complaint, see Item 8 – Note 19.
Montana-Dakota incurred $5.9 million of environmental capital expenditures in 2009. Capital expenditures are estimated to be $1.7 million, $5.0 million and $6.5 million in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively, to maintain environmental compliance as new emission controls are required. Projects will include sulfur-dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury control equipment installation at electric generating stations. Montana-Dakota’s capital and operational expenditures could also be affected in a variety of ways by potential new GHG legislation or regulation. In particular, such legislation or regulation would likely increase capital expenditures for renewable energy resources and operational costs associated with GHG emissions compliance until carbon capture technology becomes economical, at which time capital expenditures may be necessary to incorporate such technology into existing or new generating facilities. Montana-Dakota expects that it will recover the operational and capital expenditures for GHG regulatory compliance in its rates consistent with the recovery of other reasonable costs of complying with environmental laws and regulations.
Natural Gas Distribution
General The Company's natural gas distribution operations consist of Montana-Dakota, Great Plains, Cascade and Intermountain which sell natural gas at retail, serving over 829,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in 333 communities and adjacent rural areas across eight states as of December 31, 2009, and provide natural gas transportation services to certain customers on their systems. These services are provided through distribution systems aggregating approximately 17,000 miles. The natural gas distribution operations have obtained and hold, or are in the process of renewing, valid and existing franchises authorizing them to conduct their natural gas operations in all of the municipalities they serve where such franchises are required. These operations intend to protect their service areas and seek renewal of all expiring franchises. As of December 31, 2009, the natural gas distribution operations' net natural gas distribution plant investment approximated $909.9 million.
The percentage of the natural gas distribution operations’ 2009 natural gas utility operating sales revenues by jurisdiction is as follows: Idaho – 32 percent; Washington – 30 percent; North Dakota – 11 percent; Oregon – 9 percent; Montana – 7 percent; South Dakota – 6 percent; Minnesota – 3 percent; and Wyoming – 2 percent. The natural gas distribution operations are subject to regulation by the IPUC, MNPUC, MTPSC, NDPSC, OPUC, SDPUC, WUTC and WYPSC regarding retail rates, service, accounting and certain security issuances.