Public meetings seek comments for state’s plan to comply with EPA rule
By Annette Tait
Coal mining and coal-fired power generation are big contributors to quality of life in Oliver County, in terms of both employment and the economy. Jobs at Minnkota Power, BNI Coal, and Basin Electric Cooperative’s Leland Olds Station near Stanton are incentives for families to live in Center and the surrounding county, where they send their children to Center-Stanton public schools and local daycare providers, participate in local sports, recreation, and annual events, and help make Center and Oliver County a good place to live and raise a family.
The mine and power plants, a way of life for many in Oliver County, are under scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency under its Clean Power Plan, a new rule under the authority of the Clean Air Act, that requires significant reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions throughout the country. First released Aug. 3, the plan was published in the Federal Register Oct. 23, marking the start of a 60-day judicial review and a 90-day comment period on the EPA’s federal implementation plan. The implementation plan outlines EPA action to be taken should a state fail to submit, or submit an inadequate, state implementation plan.
Two of the four public meetings scheduled by the North Dakota Department of Health will be held within easy access of Oliver County residents: the first is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Beulah Civic Center; and the second at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, in the Bismarck State College National Energy Center of Excellence. According to the NDDoH, the meetings will be used to discuss state preparation of a plan to reduce CO2 emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in the state. The first meeting was held in Williston Nov. 9; the remaining meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18 at North Dakota State University, Fargo.
Initial impressions of the plan were recently discussed during the Coal Conversion Counties meeting Oct. 13 at the Square Butte Creek Golf Course. During their presentations, Lignite Energy Council President and CEO Jason Bohrer and Basin Electric Power Cooperative Senior Legislative Representative Dale Niezwaag provided overviews of the changes between the draft plan and the plan released Aug. 3, and noted how their respective organizations viewed the requirements. Both specifically noted the significant difference between the 11 percent reduction in the draft plan and the 45 percent reduction in the plan released in August, and potential negative impacts to the state’s mining and utility industries that would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy costs.