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Letter: EPA proposal for emission limits will hurt coal industry in North Dakota

One of North Dakota's largest industries is under direct attack by the Environmental Protection Agency and the current administration. Lignite coal, an economic driver in this state, has been the backbone for many counties, provided thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to the state every year in taxes.

Earlier this year, the EPA proposed rules setting greenhouse-gas emissions standards for fossil-fuel power plants. These rules are the first that really set limits for carbon emissions and the EPA claims they won't impact existing facilities.

However, the fact that these proposals could be put into effect means there is potential that existing power plants will be negatively impacted.

Coal-fired electricity makes up about 45 percent of U.S. electric power generation and there are many states alongside ours fighting back to keep our domestic coal supply in the mix and competitive with other fuel sources. In order to have a well-balanced energy policy and keep us moving in the direction of energy independence, coal must be in that equation. Future generations in North Dakota still need access to use lignite to generate power.

According to a 2012 Bloomberg government study, "New power plants would be required to emit less than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. The construction of new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. would effectively be banned under the proposed regulation."

The state's lignite-fired electrical generation plants have come a long way to meet and exceed federal and state standards. New technologies continually help reduce carbon emissions and many of the region's power companies have been progressively seeking, developing and installing these newest and most efficient Air Quality Control Systems. We need to protect our existing facilities and protect the viability of a strong North Dakota natural resource.

Many of the North Dakota Construction Council's partners -- both our union contractors and union trades -- have worked for decades in the power plants and mines. That work has been the bread and butter for thousands of families.

The council is asking North Dakota residents who have received benefits from lignite coal to speak out on behalf of the industry.

Contact our North Dakota congressional staff to oppose the new proposed rule. Or, send a letter through the Partners for Affordable Energy by going to

Removing the viability of coal, means removing the future of one of the state's most stable industries and removing North Dakota jobs.

Pamela Link, North Dakota Construction Council executive director, Washburn