Delegation, Governor Press EPA for Cooperation, Clarity in Clean Air Efforts

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, Rep. Rick Berg, and Governor Jack Dalrymple have again urged U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to give full and fair consideration to the North Dakota Department of Health’s (NDDH) state implementation plan to reduce regional haze in western North Dakota. The delegation and governor outlined their arguments in a detailed letter to the Administrator sent last week. 

The letter follows up on a series of meetings and correspondence between North Dakota officials and the EPA over the appropriate response to regional haze issues in western North Dakota and the state’s work to determine the “Best Available Control Technology” for nitrogen oxide emissions at Minnkota Power’s Milton R. Young Station in Center, N.D. 

The NDDH, as the permitting authority, is charged with implementing a regional haze reduction plan, but the EPA has filed a formal objection to the state’s design, and has prescribed a far more expensive and unproven protocol for reducing the emissions.  

“State regulators have made every effort to work not only with the EPA, but also local stakeholders to arrive at a reasonable, affordable and effective plan, but federal regulators are delaying its implementation in favor of a costlier, untested method of questionable effectiveness, purportedly for administrative consistency. That makes no sense,” Hoeven said. 

“The State has made every reasonable effort to accommodate EPA’s concerns,” Conrad said.  “The State’s plan would be in compliance with clean air standards.  Yet EPA continues to insist on an approach that the State has already concluded will not work.  Enough is enough. EPA needs to support – not hinder – the State’s plan.”  

“We need common sense regulation that encourages energy development and job creation, not ineffective restrictions that ignore the State’s recommendations and could increase costs for both North Dakota energy producers and consumers,” Congressman Berg stated.  “The State has worked to establish a proposal that both meets EPA standards while addressing the realities of North Dakota’s energy production capabilities—it’s time for the EPA to support the State’s plan.” 

“The EPA should abide by the Clean Air Act which allows the state to regulate its own industries,” Dalrymple said. “North Dakota has a long and proven history of responsibly overseeing its Clean Air Permit program, but the EPA seems determined to force on us an inappropriate policy that will needlessly impede new development and cost us jobs.”

Under the terms of a Consent Decree approved in 2006, the State of North Dakota was charged with developing plans to reduce coal-burning power plant emissions of nitrous oxide, which causes regional haze and to retrofit the M.R. Young Station to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Both plans were to comply with regulations under the Clean Air Act.  

After years of preparation and data gathering, the North Dakota Department of Health offered a detailed plan to reduce regional haze in March 2010, which the EPA indicated in a November letter that it proposes to replace with an agency plan. In a separate decision, the EPA also rejected the state’s plan to retrofit the M.R. Young Station.   

The delegation and governor wrote in their letter that the EPA should accept the State’s plans, which comply with federal Clean Air Act requirements. In its rejected plan to reduce regional haze, the State proposed a non-catalytic method for its lignite coal-fueled plants that is proven to reduce nitrous oxide by 50 percent.  

However, the EPA has proposed a catalytic technology that has not been used with North Dakota lignite coal, which burns differently than other coals because of its high sodium content and high burn temperature. Additionally, this technology would add a significantly greater cost burden to North Dakota coal plants and consumers for an uncertain result.  

The EPA proposes similar catalytic technology for the M.R. Young Station. However, in the State’s findings, no vendor would guarantee that the catalyst would work with the unique chemical make-up of North Dakota lignite on the unique cyclone-fired boilers, so, as in its proposal to reduce regional haze, the state recommended non-catalytic technology.  

The state’s congressional delegation and governor earlier outlined their concerns with the EPA’s proposed action in a Feb. 28 letter and met with EPA officials the same day. They have continued to press Administrator Jackson and the EPA for cooperation with North Dakota Department of Health since.