Delegation: EPA Administrator Jackson to Respond in 30 Days on State Implementation Plan and Study for Regional Haze

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad and Congressman Rick Berg today met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to reach agreement on a plan to reduce regional haze in Class I areas of North Dakota. Jackson said she will give the delegation an answer in 30 days on whether or not the EPA will continue with a State Implementation Plan proposed by North Dakota and commit to a study designed to test the effectiveness of a technology proposed by the federal agency and disputed by state officials and industry. 

The EPA has previously announced its intention to take partial control of North Dakota’s air quality program by overruling the North Dakota Department of Health’s plan to reduce regional haze in Class I areas. Instead the EPA is imposing its own Federal Implementation Plan (FIP). The FIP includes the use of a more expensive and unproven technology that the companies which manufacture the equipment themselves can’t guarantee will work with North Dakota lignite coal. The study discussed today would test the effectiveness of the technology. The state plan does not change human health standards, and there is no discernible visibility difference between the two plans. 

Senator Hoeven organized today’s meeting with Jackson so that the delegation could impress on her the importance of maintaining state regulatory oversight in North Dakota and other upper Great Plains states, including Minnesota and South Dakota. Also in attendance at the meeting were Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). 

The EPA’s proposed plan could mean significant rate increases to consumers of residential and commercial electricity consumers by requiring nearly $700 million of additional equipment on four North Dakota power plants. 

“Today, we made a forceful case that the state needs to manage its own implementation plan, and the EPA’s response is a step in the right direction,” Hoeven said. “Within 30 days, Administrator Jackson will let us know if the EPA will agree to North Dakota managing its own plan for regional haze, with a two to three-year period for testing the appropriate technology. Our state demonstrates that we can promote strong economic growth and job creation, while doing a good job of protecting our air land and water. The EPA needs to recognize that commonsense approach.” 

“The message I delivered to Administrator Jackson today was loud and clear: The EPA should support the State of North Dakota’s plan as the right way to reduce haze in our region,” Senator Conrad said. “The State has met all of its Clean Air Act responsibilities in developing its plan.  Additional EPA regulations will do nothing more than force North Dakota industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on technology that  is not technically feasible and would result in miniscule haze differences that would be undetectable to the human eye.” 

“Today I reiterated my long-standing belief that the EPA’s intention to overrule our state’s implementation plan is unwarranted—North Dakota has taken steps to create a well-researched haze management plan, and new EPA regulations will add millions of dollars in new compliance costs for no visible benefit,” Berg said. “While I’m pleased the EPA has agreed to review our state’s management plan and conduct a thorough study of the effectiveness of its own plan, it’s critical that North Dakota is allowed to keep its plan in place while the EPA conducts its study.  Anything less would only increase the regulatory uncertainty that North Dakota’s energy producers already face.”