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Omdahl off the mark with anti-coal opinion

Jason Bohrer, Bismarck

Columnist Lloyd Omdahl’s recent opinion piece “Lowering the coal industry down gently” seems ill-timed considering the role that the state’s seven lignite-based power plants are playing in the national defense against the coronavirus.

Baseload power – the kind delivered affordable and reliably – by coal-based power plants is more important than ever as the government, industries and people are working together to keep Americans healthy, fed and comfortable during a national emergency.

Reading Omdahl’s column left me with several unanswered questions: “If not coal, then what?” and “Did he consider that Team North Dakota is working on solving CO2 emissions with capture and storage technologies?”

For the last 50 years, North Dakotans have largely taken their electric needs for granted because of the role of the lignite industry. Power has been provided reliably, the cost has been affordable and the state is one of 14 clean air states. Mined land reclamation is also second to none as farm land is returned to a state as good or better.

So before we shut the plants down in favor of alternatives, let’s consider the state has a nearly inexhaustible supply of lignite – which is why the plants were built in the first place. Does it make sense to leave this resource untouched when it has provided thousands of families with good paying jobs and the state with a reliable source of annual tax dollars?

Instead of shutting the industry down, let’s rally around Team North Dakota – a consortium of state, federal, private and industry parties – working together to develop cost-effective technology solutions. After all, what we do in North Dakota can be solutions for the rest of the world, which is certainly not turning its back on coal to generate power and lift poor societies from poverty.

Currently, Project Tundra is progressing through the engineering studies. If approved, the Young Station near Center, ND, may be equipped to capture and store CO2. This will mean the preservation of jobs, the addition of new jobs and the ability for regional utilities to continue to deliver 24/7 power to thousands of customers. For more information, go to: www.projecttundrand.com

Jason Bohrer is President and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council

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