Hoeven and Governor Meet with EPA, Call for Answers on New Carbon Dioxide Rule

EPA Agrees to Provide Flexibility in Timeline for State to Submit Implementation Plan

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, Governor Jack Dalrymple and a representative from Congressman Kevin Cramer’s office, along with leaders from North Dakota’s coal industry, met today with Janet McCabe, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator in charge of issuing the new carbon dioxide rule, to press the agency to explain how the state is expected to meet the reductions required under the recently released rule. The leaders called on the EPA to provide greater flexibility by recognizing the investments and advances made by industry in reducing CO2 levels and North Dakota’s unique coal and geographic resources. EPA officials agreed to provide flexibility for the state to submit its State Implementation Plan (SIP), going from one year to three years to submit the final SIP. 

The North Dakota leaders pushed the EPA to explain why the agency’s final CO2 rule unfairly targets North Dakota, requiring a dramatically higher level of reductions. Under the proposed rule, North Dakota would have had to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 11 percent. However, the administration’s final rule requires North Dakota to reduce CO2 emissions by 45 percent, well above the 32 percent national average.

“We’ve been pressing the EPA to meet with our industry leaders to explain changes from the agency’s proposed rule to the final regulation,” said Hoeven, who arranged the meeting in a phone call with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Our industry leaders made their case very forcefully and very well. This CO2 rule does not work and we need more time to address it. We talked about going from one year to three years in terms of submitting an implementation plan. We also talked about getting more flexibility and even an administrative exemption for North Dakota that would work based on our circumstances. At the same time, we’ll continue to push back on this rule through litigation and congressional action.”    

Hoeven has worked as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior and Environment funding bill to block the EPA from implementing the rule. Further, Hoeven joined Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) earlier this year to introduce the bipartisan Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA Act). This legislation would empower state governors to protect ratepayers from increases and ensure the reliability of the electricity grid while also preventing the EPA from mandating unproven technology or withholding highway funds from states not in compliance with the rule.

“Last night on a call with EPA Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe, I secured a commitment for EPA to send technical staff to North Dakota – not just to understand the issues facing our utilities, but to work closely with our utilities and regulators in putting together a plan that works for North Dakota while trying to achieve the reduced emissions goal – and I reaffirmed that commitment at today’s meeting. North Dakota regulators and utilities work tirelessly to keep the lights on across our state every day, but they need EPA to be realistic about what can be achieved within the timeframe the agency put in place so that our utilities have certainty that they can continue to provide reliable and affordable electricity to their customers. Quadrupling our required emissions reductions from the draft to the final rule wasn’t just unprecedented and drastic – it was also a shock, because our state’s utilities had been working with the agency to meet those draft targets. I’m committed to being constructive, and that means expressing our disapproval of the final rule through legislation while also working to find solutions here and now through engagement between EPA and our state’s utilities and regulators,” said Heitkamp.

A proponent of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, Heitkamp has concerns about the Clean Power Plan’s impact on coal-fired power plants. Coal plants generate about one-third of the country’s electricity, and about 80 percent of North Dakota’s electricity. Coal also supports 13,000 jobs in North Dakota, and mining has an economic impact of $3.5 billion. To put coal on a viable path forward, Heitkamp this year re-introduced legislation to develop and implement technology to reduce the carbon footprint of coal-fired plants. Heitkamp’s work to keep coal an essential part of the U.S. energy mix builds on her more than a decade of experience on the board of directors of Dakota Gasification, the one-of-a-kind synfuels plant in Beulah, N.D.

“I appreciate Assistant Administrator McCabe’s willingness to discuss the negative impact the CO2 rule will have on North Dakota.  The Obama Administration’s ‘War on Coal’ will raise electricity costs and hurt job creation as well as jeopardizing our electrical transmission and distribution grid. On top of which the EPA’s arbitrary determination demanding we must reduce our CO2 emissions by 45 percent from the original 11 percent is inconceivable.  We’re already successful in keeping our North Dakota air clean as highlighted by the fact the American Lung Association has scored all 53 North Dakota counties with an A grade in its’ 2015 ‘State of the Air’ report card, including those counties with coal power plants,” said Cramer

In June the House of Representatives passed the Ratepayer Protection Act (H.R. 2042) which ensures states do not have to comply with the president’s backdoor cap and trade plan until it has been adjudicated.  The House has also taken additional steps to curb the administration’s excessive red tape and protect small businesses and manufacturers, including passing the REINS Act (H.R. 427) and the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R. 185).  These bills are currently awaiting action by the U.S. Senate. 

“Last year, the EPA told us that they would require an 11 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in North Dakota by 2030 to help meet the overall national goal.  Without discussion they issued their final rule and now require a 45 percent reduction,” Dalrymple said. “I had some very direct questions for the EPA today and there were no clear answers. The EPA’s emissions rules are arbitrary and unattainable.  They will undermine the nation’s energy security and will lead to lost jobs and higher utility costs for consumers. In drafting the final rules, the EPA has unfairly targeted North Dakota which provides affordable energy to its residents and other states, and their new rules completely fail to take into account that about 25 percent of North Dakota’s total electric generation comes from wind and hydroelectric power, both non-carbon sources.

“You wouldn’t know it by reviewing the EPA’s plan, but North Dakota is one of only a handful of states that meet the EPA’s air quality standards, and our total carbon emissions in North Dakota have dropped 11 percent below 2005 levels despite the oil boom,” Dalrymple said. “We should continue working to make further reductions, but in a manner that is practical, cost-effective for industry and residential consumers and based on technology that is commercially viable. If the EPA would follow our lead, the United States would continue to reduce emissions in a responsible way. In North Dakota, private industry and researchers are developing innovative solutions to further reduce carbon emissions, including work underway at the University of North Dakota’s Energy & Environmental Research Center to capture carbon and utilize it for advanced oil recovery.”

Representatives at the meeting included: Paul Sukut, CEO of Basin Electric; Mac McLennan, CEO/President of Minnkota Power; Tim Rogelstad, President of Otter Tail Power Company; David Saggau, CEO of Great River Energy; J.C. Butler, CEO/President of North American Coal; Nicole Kivisto, President and CEO of Montana and Dakota Utilities, Alan Hodnik, President and CEO of ALLETE; and Tyler Hamman, Lignite Energy Council.