Weather Forecast


Dalrymple vows to fight EPA emission rules

BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple vowed Wednesday to use “every tool available,” including potential legal action, to fight the federal government’s proposed tightening of emission standards for power plants and petroleum refineries.

Speaking at a summit at Bismarck State College attended by state and industry officials from 21 energy-producing states and the District of Columbia, Dalrymple said North Dakota is apprehensive about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to limit carbon dioxide emissions to less than half the current average for new coal-fired plants.

“We cannot jump to a much higher standard for (carbon dioxide) overnight. It simply is not possible, it’s not attainable, and we will fight that with every tool that we have available,” he said.

Dave Glatt, environmental health chief for the North Dakota Department of Health, organized the summit with Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

Glatt said he felt the need to convene like-minded states because their individual voices weren’t being heard compared with east and west coast interests that were “getting significant deference.”

He said the industry and state officials need to articulate their specific concerns to the EPA. State officials will meet behind closed doors Thursday to discuss potential areas of collaboration, including the possibility of forming a coalition of energy producing states.

“It doesn’t have to be all coal or no coal,” he said. “It can be all of the above, but we need time to be able to make it happen.”

The EPA proposed new standards in September that would restrict carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants to 1,100 pounds per megawatt hour, less than half the current national average of about 2,250 pounds per megawatt hour for existing coal-fired plants, including North Dakota’s seven plants. The public comment period on the proposal ends May 9.

Proposed standards for existing power plants are expected to be issued in late May or early June. The EPA is scheduled to publish a final rule in June 2015, with states’ plans to meet those standards due by June 2016.

Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent said that in addition to potential legal challenges, other tools the state could use to fight the proposed EPA standards include continuing to work through the rulemaking process and through congressional action.

Joseph Goffman, associate assistant administrator and senior counsel for the EPA in Washington, D.C., called the gathering of industry, state and federal officials “an extremely good development.”

“Basically, half the country is in Bismarck right now in this room to talk about this opportunity and challenge,” he said.

Asked how important having industry buy into the new rules will be to avoiding lawsuits, Goffman said the industry is “critical” because it ultimately delivers affordable electricity and pollution reduction.

“I think the companies themselves working with their states and the states working with each other have a tremendous ability to deliver flexibility, and we’re going to try to do everything we can to structure the rules to foster that,” he said.

Dalrymple called the summit “an opportunity to do some communicating at this key stage of the process that might just do some good.”

The Republican governor also said, “We would acknowledge that CO2 does have an impact on climate. We don’t know the extent of the impact, though we would certainly not argue that is has an impact that needs to be controlled over the long haul.”

The EPA’s proposed emission rules have become a target of coal-state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Last month, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced legislation that would provide several incentives for companies to invest in technologies to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. A separate bill introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., would require congressional approval of any EPA-proposed rule for existing coal-fired power plants and establish specific guidelines for developing emissions standards for new power plants.

At Heitkamp’s invitation, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited North Dakota on Feb. 28 to meet with representatives of the state’s coal and ethanol industries, saying she wanted to understand “both the intended and unintended consequences of our actions.”

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.