Hoeven Calls On EPA To Adopt State Implementation Plan for Regional Haze

Senator Introduces Empower States Act To Ensure State Role in Regional Haze Rule

WASHINGTON – At a public agency hearing today in Bismarck, Senator John Hoeven called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt the North Dakota Department of Health’s State Implementation Plan for Regional Haze, rather than a more costly one-size-fits-all federal plan. Hoeven also announced his plan to introduce the Empower States Act, which will ensure that the EPA provides states with adequate flexibility to implement sensible standards for improving visibility in selected areas of the country. 

Joining Hoeven at a news conference prior to his testimony were representatives of the electric energy industry, including Ron Harper, CEO and general manager of Basin Electric Power and board chairman of the North Dakota Lignite Energy Council; Robert McLennan, President and CEO of Minnkota Power Cooperative; Carroll Dewing, President of The Coteau Properties Company, a subsidiary of North American Coal; and Dave Glatt, division chief of the North Dakota Health Department’s Environmental Section. 

The EPA is seeking to take partial control of North Dakota’s air quality program by overruling the state’s scientific findings and implementation plan to reduce regional haze. In a move unprecedented in the state’s regulatory history, the agency is imposing its own Federal Implementation Plan (FIP), which 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. There is no impact on human health and no discernible difference to the human eye in visibility between the two plans. 

Despite that fact, the EPA’s proposed plan would mean significant rate increases to consumers of residential and commercial electricity by requiring nearly $700 million of additional equipment on four North Dakota power plants, while making no discernible improvement in visibility. Nationally, new EPA regulations of electrical utilities, including regional haze rules, could cost the nation more than 180,000 jobs a year through 2020 at a time when the national unemployment rate remains over 9 percent, and economic growth is virtually flat. 

“North Dakota is an economic bright spot in the nation today in part because we have always taken a commonsense approach to regulations, encouraging energy development with good environmental stewardship,” Hoeven said. “We can promote economic growth and sustain jobs while protecting the environment, but businesses need regulatory certainty and cost effectiveness to do that. The state’s plan provides that certainty, which is why I strongly urge the EPA to recognize North Dakota’s authority and discretion and approve its state implementation plan in whole.”


Hoeven also unveiled the Empower States Act, new legislation he will be introducing in the U.S. Senate to ensure that states, rather than the EPA, make decisions regarding regional haze based on good science, local expertise and minimal economic impact on local communities. 

The Empower States Act enables states to implement the EPA’s Regional Haze standards using local knowledge. The Act ensures that decisions affecting local families, farmers and businesses are made by local governments to the extent possible.  Also, this legislation clarifies that state implementation plans (SIPs) and the best available retrofit technology (BART) they include must consider the economic impacts on local communities. 

Why the Empower States Act Is Needed

  • While states have the primary authority to determine how to meet Clean Air Act standards, as set by EPA, the EPA has overruled states as it has done in North Dakota with the Regional Haze rule, which could lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in increased electricity costs to households.
  • Right now, a state like North Dakota can spend years and millions of dollars creating a state plan that achieves the Clean Air Act’s objectives, only to have the EPA override that state’s plan with a federal plan that may require unreasonably expensive technologies that provide little or no benefit.
  • The Act ensures the EPA will, when evaluating SIPs, consider the economic impact of state plans to comply with the Clean Air Act. This bill will require the EPA to weigh more carefully the effect of SIPs on local economies.

The Empower States Act Supports Clean Air Act Health Standards

  • The Empower States Act only affects state implementation plans for regional haze, which by statute are designed to regulate only for visibility, not human health. North Dakota is one of only 11 states that comply with all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which are designed to regulate pollutants considered harmful to human health. The Empower States Act does not alter these regulations.

“The Empower States Act acknowledges that the people who live and work in the communities affected by the EPA’s regional haze rule are the best stewards of the land and air, and it empowers them and their local officials to make well-informed decisions on how best to protect it,” Hoeven said.