Federal proposed plans

The North Dakota Public Service Agency is actively telling the federal Environmental Protection Agency to slow down with proposed carbon regulation plans for power plants and give industry time to adapt, says a PSC commissioner.

Julie Fedorchak, of Bismarck, spoke to the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Committee at an April 24 meeting in Minot.

She told the group the new carbon regulation the EPA is proposing “seems like some sort of an elusive thing that’s out there that may or may not ever happen.”

“I’m here to tell you it’s happening. And it will happen and it’s going to have an impact on all of you as business owners and residents in this country,” Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak, who announced her candidacy for commissioner this past November having earlier been appointed to the board, said there are a number of issues if significant carbon regulations are passed.

In North Dakota, she said there are 4,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation. “What’s going to happen to that if new carbon levels are added and carbon limits required on those plants? Will they be able to meet them?” she said.

She said it’s not cost effective to put carbon-capturing storage on existing plants, plus the technology doesn’t exist. “We’re very concerned how that impacts our existing coal industry. We’re also very concerned how it impacts future generation,” she said.

It’s well known that oil development in the state and many new people coming here to live are putting new demands on the need for more power generation in North Dakota.

“We need more power, we need more electricity,” Fedorchak said. “North Dakota is one of the only states in the country that is growing right now so this is not as big of a challenge in other states as in North Dakota.”

For example, she said Watford City’s demand for power has grown 300 percent since 2005. “In 2012 alone, it grew almost 70 percent. They need more,” she said.

Fedorchak said Minot and Bismarck are growing as well as the whole state is growing as a result of the development in the Bakken.

“I’m not one to say we shouldn’t do carbon regulation, that we shouldn’t be part of the overall global solution to reducing carbon emissions but let’s be reasonable, let’s be rational, let’s let the industry adapt. Let’s let the technology develop so that we can do this without putting a huge, huge cost on consumers and businesses, and limitations on economic development in our country,” she said.

She told the Minot group the PSC approved on April 23 a new transmission line that would run about 200 miles from Beulah to near Tioga.

The power line would go through the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield, site of the 1864 battle between U.S. Army soldiers and American Indians. Several Indian tribes and others have objected to the plan.

Fedorchak said the transmission line involved a yearlong review and analysis of the project and 30 hours of public hearings. “Ultimately, I believe we came up with a pretty good solution for going through an area of the state that’s really sensitive and a lot of people hold dear,” she said.

The proposed project would be located in portions of Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer, Mountrail and Williams counties in western North Dakota.

She said the PSC is looking at taking over a pipeline safety program for liquids transmission lines.

Currently, N.D. PSC manages all the pipeline safety for gas transmissions lines in North Dakota but PHMSA, a federal agency, manages the liquids program, she said.

She said the idea to create an inspection program for oil pipelines in North Dakota came about because of the Tioga oil spill last year.

“We think the time is right to take over that program ourselves and manage that,” she said. The North Dakota Legislature would have to approve it.

If the state PSC would take over the pipeline safety, she said they would add two to three employees and would follow the parameters set by the federal government.

“We would have North Dakota people working every day to inspect those lines and oversee the safe operations of these facilities which are growing here,” she said.

She said they are also looking at the process of rail safety issue.

“This is not an area that the PSC has jurisdiction. We used to have jurisdiction over railroads and then the federal government took over all of it so we have very, very, very little jurisdiction over railroads,” she said. But, she said, 750,000 barrels of oil traveling across rails in the state warrants taking a look at rail safety and whether the PSC could bring on state-paid staff to supplement what the federal officials are doing.