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Bryan Horwath, Forum News Service, Published September 20 2013

ND delegation fires back on new EPA coal regulations

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday released a proposal for strict new regulations on carbon emissions from new U.S. power plants, causing some of North Dakota’s top politicians to fire back.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., both released statements Friday afternoon blasting the new regulations, which they said could have a negative impact on the energy industry.

“The (Obama) Administration’s decision is a direct attack on coal-fired power plants and detrimental to the future for coal as an energy resource,” Heitkamp stated in a release. “This administration has repeatedly stated its energy policy as ‘all of the above,’ but continues to issue regulations that make it impossible to find a viable path forward for coal.”

The rules – which would limit new coal-fired units to releasing 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour and call for tighter restrictions on natural gas facilities – represent the first major provisions in the president’s climate change package, which was announced in June.

Heitkamp pointed out that nearly 90 percent of the electricity delivered to consumers in North Dakota is provided by the coal industry.

Hoeven went a step further, saying the new regulations would have a negative impact on all Americans.

“The new rule the EPA released (Friday) will clearly have a negative impact on the energy industry and the American people,” Hoeven stated. “It will kill jobs, weaken our economy and deprive American families and businesses access to affordable energy. The rule goes too far, too fast.

“Also troubling is the fact that the administration appropriated the authority to make a major decision that rightfully belongs to Congress,” he stated. “This will affect virtually every American for many years to come.”

In addition to the political backlash from some in Washington, the president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity issued a scathing response to the new rules, which are expected to be a prelude to new EPA guidelines for future power plants.

“The EPA is banning the construction of modern coal plants resulting in fewer fuel choices in the market,” Robert Duncan said in a release. “Fewer energy choices could cause American consumers to pay the ultimate price of higher energy bills. This misguided policy only adds insult to injury to an industry that has successfully used clean coal technologies to reduce many emissions by more than 90 percent.”

However, in her presentation of the regulations Friday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy referred to climate change, largely stemming from power plant carbon emissions, as a “public health challenge” and said the rules represented “common sense” action.

“These standards will spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy,” McCarthy said. “By taking action, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children.”

Echoing McCarthy’s sentiments, Wayde Schafer of the Sierra Club’s Dacotah Chapter called the proposed rules “exciting” and said it was a step in the right direction toward having a more environmentally friendly energy industry.

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., issued a video response to the EPA’s announcement, calling it a “terrible precedent” for future energy policy.

“Very few places on Earth are cleaner and greener than the state of North Dakota,” Cramer said. “With these regulations, the Obama administration is telling us the cleanest coal technology ever developed by the U.S. ought to be punished, not rewarded.”