Health, coal officials: State plan needed to avoid 'catastrophic' effects of EPA rule
WILLISTON -- Federal rules for coal-fired power plants could "gut our economy" in North Dakota if the state doesn't develop its own plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a health official said Monday.
WILLISTON - Federal rules for coal-fired power plants could “gut our economy” in North Dakota if the state doesn’t develop its own plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a health official said Monday.
The North Dakota Department of Health kicked off a series of public hearings Monday in Williston seeking input on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan rule for coal-fired plants.
“I truly believe that if we do this wrong, this is catastrophic for North Dakota,” said Dave Glatt, chief of the department’s Environmental Health Section.
North Dakota is suing the federal government to block the stricter pollution standards, which state officials warn will threaten power grid reliability, raise costs for consumers and eliminate some of the state’s seven coal-fired plants and the jobs they support.
While the issue is pending in the courts, the health department is working to develop a state plan and gathering feedback from the public.
“We need to come up with a solution here,” Glatt said. “We need to do it the North Dakota way.”
The federal rule would require North Dakota power plant operators to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent by 2030 when compared with 2012 levels.
Achieving that would cost $375 million a year, or about $50 per North Dakota resident each month, said Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, using the EPA’s estimates on the cost to comply.
“Low-income people are going to need some kind of a subsidy,” Christmann said.
Reliability of electricity was a major concern for those at the Williston hearing, where the region is projected to need at least 2,000 additional megawatts of power through 2030, said state Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston.
Oil development drives the demand for power in the region, with each new Bakken well requiring the equivalent amount of electricity as 10 farmsteads.
“I think we need to control our own destiny as much as we can,” Bekkedahl said, urging the health department to develop a state plan. “This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.”
Jay Kost, president of The Falkirk Mining Co., said mining companies in North Dakota are passionate about environmental compliance, but what the EPA is proposing would have enormous potential costs to North Dakota citizens in lost tax revenue and jobs, as well as reliability issues.
North Dakota has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 11 percent since 2005, the health department said.
“We believe we’re good stewards to the land,” Kost said. “It’s not that we’re trying to put down everything that the EPA is trying to do.”
A state plan is due to the EPA by Sept. 6 of next year, but the health department plans to ask for a two-year extension.
While Glatt noted that people in other states have applauded this rule, several at the Williston hearing wore “Friends of Coal” stickers and took free “Coal Keeps North Dakota Strong” shirts from the Lignite Energy Council.
Steve Van Dyke, a spokesman for the Lignite Energy Council, said he encourages residents in the state to attend the public hearings to learn how the rule would affect them.
Other meetings are scheduled for:
Beulah Civic Center, 7 p.m. Thursday; Bismarck State College, NECE Auditorium Room 304, 7 p.m. Nov. 16; North Dakota State University Memorial Hall in Fargo, Great Plains Ballroom, 7 p.m. Nov. 18.
The health department will accept written public comments through Dec. 18. Comments should be directed to the Division of Air Quality, 918 E. Divide Ave., Bismarck, ND, 58501-1947 or emailed to email@example.com . More information is available at www.ndhealth.gov/aq/publiccom.aspx .
Jay Kost, president of The Falkirk Mining Co., speaks Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Williston, N.D., during a public hearing on the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan, referencing a copy of the rule on the podium that is several inches thick. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service