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Jason Bohrer, Published November 25 2013

Letter: EPA rush to regulate can’t work in North Dakota energy industry

In June, when President Barack Obama directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop greenhouse gas standards for new and existing fossil fuel-based power plants, he single-handedly embarked on a quest to restrict energy choices and set energy policy behind the Congress’ back.

As a result of this rushed process, the proposed regulations we have seen from the administration are unworkable. For instance, when the EPA issued its proposed regulations for new coal-based power plants, it mandated the use of technologies that are not commercially feasible. The EPA will follow up those proposed regulations with a proposal for existing power plants in June 2014.

As we have learned from the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act, when laws are hastily written and then handed off to unelected bureaucrats to implement, it is the public that suffers. That is why we have argued that if limits are needed for carbon dioxide emissions, such limits should be set by Congress through the traditional legislative process.

In late October, Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., released draft legislation that provides some common-sense guidelines for the EPA in regulating greenhouse gases.

• EPA has to establish different standards for coal and natural gas-fired power plants.

• Standards for coal have to be achievable as demonstrated by at least six coal-based generating units over a period of at least one year.

• A subcategory will be established for coal-based power plants that use lignite.

• No greenhouse gas standard or guidelines to existing plants will take effect unless a federal law is enacted specifying the effective date.

• The EPA administrator will submit a report to Congress on the projected economic impacts and effects on global greenhouse gas emissions.

As this debate continues, there will undoubtedly be more attempts to find a solution through the legislative process. For now, the Lignite Energy Council and its nearly 400 members believe that the Whitfield-Manchin approach to greenhouse gas regulation can provide coal a way forward as our country fulfills the president’s promise of an “All of the Above” national energy policy.

Bohrer, Bismarck, is president/CEO, Lignite Energy Council.