John Dwyer, Bismarck, President and CEO Lignite Energy Council
The lignite industry in North Dakota has provided thousands of good paying jobs plus affordable and reliable electricity to about 2 million people in the Upper Midwest. The state's four lignite mines are known for their excellent reclamation of mined lands and North Dakota is one of only nine states to meet all federal ambient air standards. Our state also enjoys some of the lowest priced electricity, about 7 cents per kilowatt-hour. Electric customers in California pay an average of 13 cents per kilowatt-hour and New Yorkers pay more than 16 cents.
But that stellar record of achievement is at risk. In late March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a greenhouse gas rule that is already in effect for certain new electric generation facilities. The problem with the proposed rule is that it basically takes coal out of the equation for future new generation by requiring new coal-based plants to meet carbon dioxide emissions levels equal to a combined cycle natural gas plant. This amounts to more than a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in order to meet the standard.
Up to this point, rules that sought to regulate traditional air pollutants have stemmed from the Clean Air Act and amendments that were passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The Clean Air Act was never intended to regulate greenhouse gases, but President Obama's administration has been implementing new rules directed at just that "regulating greenhouse gases." The proposed greenhouse gas rule establishes a troubling precedent by setting a standard for one fuel (natural gas) that is not achievable by another fuel (coal) with existing commercially available technology. In essence, the EPA has picked the winner for future electric generation. But having all of our eggs in one basket is not a risk that the American public should have to make considering that our country has more coal reserves than any other country in the world.
We have until June 25 to let the EPA know that we do not support the proposed greenhouse gas rule and the resulting increase to your electricity rates. You can help support the lignite industry, its jobs and its many contributions to the North Dakota way-of-life by visiting "noCO2rule" at (www.powerofcoal.com).