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The Great River Energy Coal Creek Station coal plant near the Falkirk mine outside of Underwood, N.D., is the largest power plant in North Dakota Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

ND officials happy with rollback of EPA's carbon emissions rule

BISMARCK—North Dakota officials welcomed news Monday, Oct. 9, that the Trump administration would repeal a rule restricting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he will sign a proposed rule Tuesday, Oct. 10, to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation that sought to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The rule was met with resistance in North Dakota, a major coal producer.

The regulation aims to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The final rule gave North Dakota a nearly 45 percent emissions reduction target, the third-biggest cut in the nation. The head of Grand Forks-based Minnkota Power Cooperative previously predicted some of North Dakota's power plants would have to shut down or operate at "drastically reduced levels" in order to meet the target.

Dale Niezwaag, vice president of government relations for Basin Electric Power Cooperative, expects there to be some type of rule, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has said the EPA is responsible for regulating emissions. But he hopes it will be "achievable both financially and technologically."

"We felt the Clean Power Plan was an overreach in the ability of the EPA to regulate," Niezwaag said.

Stacey Dahl, Minnkota's manager of external affairs, said Monday they were "still digesting" what the news means for a new rule.

"We've been very active in providing suggestions for a replacement rule," she said.

Pruitt announced his intentions Monday in Kentucky, where he declared that the "war against coal is over," according to the Washington Post. Kentucky is the third-largest coal producer in the U.S., while North Dakota is the ninth-largest, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Last year, about 71 percent of North Dakota's net electricity generation came from coal, according to the EIA.

The North Dakota Department of Health suspended work on a state plan to comply with the EPA regulation after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked its implementation in early 2016.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said the rule was "unworkable" and pointed to the development of clean coal technology.

"We welcome this action from the EPA and look forward to continuing to advance the technologies that will create a true path forward for our energy industry, empowering greater energy production and good environmental stewardship without burdening consumers and businesses with unnecessary costs," he said in a statement.

Environmental groups blasted the announcement Monday.

"With this news, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt will go down in infamy for launching one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate, and the safety of every community in the United States," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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