N.D. officials oppose president’s carbon cap on coal

North Dakota’s governor and congressional delegation are lined up against President Obama’s proposed carbon cap for existing coal-fired power plants.

The harshest language against the president’s plan, announced Tuesday, came from Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

“President Obama is making good on his 2008 promise to bankrupt anyone who wants to build a new coal plant, but now he wants to bankrupt everyone who ever built one. This announcement compounds the vast regulatory nightmare already confronting domestic energy development and removes any doubt the president is determined to dismantle an industry providing jobs and energy for our nation,” Cramer said in a prepared statement.

“All seven power plants generating electricity from coal in North Dakota are in peril under this measure,” he added. “I will not stand by while President Obama further destroys the American economy to appease his Hollywood environmentalist supporters, and will use every avenue available in Congress to stop these disastrous regulations from being implemented.”

Cramer is a co-sponsor of the Ensuring Affordable Energy Act, which blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from using its funding to implement or enforce any new regulation of greenhouse gases on power plants. He reported that emissions data from coal-fired electricity generating plants in North Dakota indicate that implementing new regulations could require them to pay drastic fines. Antelope Valley, Coal Creek, Coyote, Leland Olds, Milton R. Young, R.M. Heskett, and Stanton stations each produced between 2,033 and 3,020 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour from 2007 to 2012.

In March 2012, the EPA proposed a rule to limit emissions from new fossil fuel-fired power plants to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour. The rule has not yet moved beyond draft status. The president now has directed the EPA to issue regulations to reduce power plant carbon emissions for existing power plants no later than June 1, 2014, and final standards by June 1, 2015. States must submit implementation plans to the EPA by June 30, 2016. He has also directed the EPA to issue new proposed carbon emissions standards for new electric utility generating units by no later than Sept. 20, 2013.

“The president’s plan means higher energy costs for consumers and businesses, weakened U.S. competitiveness in global markets and increased unemployment at a time when the economy is still struggling,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a joint statement.

“Instead of picking winners and losers, the administration should be streamlining the regulatory process and empowering all sectors of the energy industry, including coal, to attract the investment that will deploy new technologies to help produce more energy with better environmental stewardship,” Hoeven said.

“Directing the EPA to implement a one-size-fits-all approach to reduce carbon emissions is not the right answer,” Dalrymple said. “North Dakota, one of only a handful of states that meet the EPA’s air quality standards, is a prime example of how we can responsibly develop our much-needed energy resources while continuing to integrate new technologies proven to reduce emissions.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a prepared statement that she supports the president’s efforts to mitigate long-term impacts of climate change. However, she added, several of the initiatives amplify the administration’s continuing war on coal and coal-fired power.

“While the president claims to believe in an all-of-the-above energy policy, he consistently fails to step forward and truly commit to such a policy. Instead the administration continues developing regulations that do nothing more than choke off good-paying American jobs and threaten millions of Americans with the loss of a reliable and affordable energy source,” she said.

She encouraged continued investments in technologies to further reduce emissions through clean coal technology projects, including commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration.

Great River Energy, which operates coal-fired plants between Washburn and Underwood and at Stanton, released a statement crediting innovative technologies for helping put it well on the way to meeting many of the goals set out by the president. Since 2006, the company has seen a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent, as well as a reduction of nitrogen oxides by 40 percent, mercury by 40 percent at its largest coal plant and sulfur dioxide by 56 percent. The reductions occurred even while producing record amounts of power in 2012.

Great River Energy also employs an innovative technology to create a dried and refined lignite coal, which it uses to operate its Spiritwood Station near Jamestown. Less of the fuel is needed to produce the same heat, and emissions are reduced.

“We will continue to seek improvements in our power delivery system and believe our past successes should be taken into consideration by the EPA. As climate change regulations are being drafted, we also believe the economic impact of those regulations on rural Americans must be considered. In that vein, we will continue to oppose regulations that significantly increase costs to electric cooperative members,” the company stated.

Basin Electric, which operates power plants in Beulah and Stanton, gets about 60 percent of the electrical generation in its system from coal.

The coal gasification plant, operated by a Basin Electric subsidiary near Beulah, is able to capture carbon dioxide to be transported for use in oil recovery in Canada, but a technology for traditional power plants still is being studied.

“There isn’t a commercially viable carbon capture technology available yet,” said Basin Electric spokesman Daryl Hill, Bismarck.

A 2010 study showed the cost of capturing even a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions at one of the two units at the Antelope Valley Station at Beulah was $500 million. That is a prohibitive cost when applied to the industry in North Dakota, Hill said.

“It’s going to drive the cost of electricity up a lot,” he said. “The vitality of the economy is based on low-cost electricity. If that electricity starts to rise, it’s going to affect the cost of all other goods and services.”