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N.D. reacting strongly to Clean Power Plan

On several fronts this fall, North Dakotans have started taking concrete steps in reaction to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP). Among those actions are recent hearings conducted by the N.D. Department of Health, as part of its responsibilities for preparing a state implementation plan for compliance with CPP. Another key development includes a lawsuit filed by the state of North Dakota against the EPA’s CPP.          

Department of Health hearings

Zac Smith with NDAREC
Zac Smith, communications and government relations director with NDAREC, offers comments at Health Department Hearings.

The N.D. Department of Health, which is charged by law to bring the state into compliance with the Clean Air Act, is charged also to see to it that the state achieves the goals of the CPP. The EPA guidelines for the CPP allow for a “state only” plan of achieving state requirements under the CPP. As part of its information gathering to achieve CPP compliance, the health department conducted a series of four public hearings across the state last month. The purpose of the hearings was to permit North Dakotans from business, industry and communities and public officials to comment on the CPP and on the steps the state should take to come into compliance with the regulation.

A summary the Health Department prepared for the hearings pointed out that by 2030, the CPP is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 32 percent nationwide, when compared to 2005 emissions. The CPP calls for North Dakota electric power generation plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 45 percent on a rate basis, or more than 37 percent on a mass basis when compared to 2012 emissions. The reductions will be phased in starting in 2022, with final compliance by 2030.

“We going to have to deal with a reduced carbon future,” said Dave Glatt, health department director. 

Private and public sector spokespersons at the hearings voiced concern with the drastic CO2 emission reductions the CPP requires of North Dakota facilities. Many expressed grave concern with the future of the state’s lignite coal base electricity generation sector, in light of the CPP

Zac Smith, North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives director of communications and government relations, provided comments at the health department hearing held in Bismarck. Smith thanked the health department for engaging the public as it considers appropriate action in response to the CPP. 

Lawsuits

In October, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem filed a lawsuit against the EPA, challenging its new CPP rule restricting CO2 emissions from existing power plants. In the lawsuit, Stenehjem asserts that the rule goes beyond EPA’s authority under Clean Air Act Section 111(d), unlawfully requiring a complete restructuring of the state’s existing electrical power system.

Motivating the lawsuit is North Dakota’s concern about the vast difference between the original rule proposed by the EPA and the final rule as published. As proposed in June 2014, the rule would have provided for an 11 percent reduction in carbon emissions, but when the rule was published, it required a 45 percent reduction from 2012 levels by 2030. Stenehjem says this is a goal North Dakota regards as impossible to attain without the likely closure of one or more of its existing power plants, with a resulting loss of jobs, higher costs of electricity for consumers and potential reliability problems.

“North Dakota has been making great strides in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing wind energy, but the Clean Power Plan sets an unreasonable schedule and hinders the development of new clean coal technologies,” Stenehjem says.

Stenehjem also filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s companion rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The lawsuits will be filed in the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as required by the Clean Air Act.