Heitkamp to push for clean coal legislation
WILLISTON -- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., will re-introduce legislation on Thursday designed to encourage the development of clean coal technologies that could keep the fuel a key source of American power generation.
WILLISTON - Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., will re-introduce legislation on Thursday designed to encourage the development of clean coal technologies that could keep the fuel a key source of American power generation.
The bill, which is likely to be popular in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate but face opposition from the White House, would offer financial incentives for utilities to develop carbon storage programs and build out the market to sell carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery.
“This kind of bill offers a glimpse into what we think could be a path forward for coal,” Heitkamp said. “You don’t abandon a reliable fuel source like coal.”
The bill would provide $10.23 billion through 2036 in tax credits, bonds and low-cost loans. Carbon dioxide is emitted when coal is burned, contributing to one of the largest U.S. sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Collecting it removes much of its environment impact.
“When you don’t have national investment, ratepayers and shareholders bear the brunt of perfecting this technology,” said Heitkamp, who was a director of the Great Plains Synfuels Plant, which converts coal to natural gas, from 2001 through 2012.
The bill would help safeguard the coal industry from new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards that some fear could prevent any new coal-fired power plants from being built.
Heitkamp proposed a nearly identical bill last year that died in the Senate’s finance committee. Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine is again a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Coal is used to produce about 38 percent of U.S. power, but has slowly been replaced in recent years by increasingly cheap natural gas. Heitkamp said it behooves power generators not to eschew coal completely given the historical price fluctuations in gas.
Heitkamp’s bill would encourage utilities to develop and use clean coal technologies.
“This bill gives us confidence that we’ll continue to be able to use coal in the future,” said Steve Tomas of Basin Electric, another North Dakota utility.
North Dakota produces 80 percent of its electricity from coal.