No Common Ground For ND Advocates In Wake Of President's Propose - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

No Common Ground For ND Advocates In Wake Of President's Proposed Energy Regs

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Controversial comments from the White House have energy stakeholders in North Dakota at odds.

Coal plants have been marked with a Presidential bullseye.  In an unprecedented move, President Obama says he'll launch Federal regulations on carbon dioxide to curb gases blamed for global warming:  "For the sake of our children and the health and safety of all Americans, I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."

Placing the issue of carbon emissions front and center in this way has some saying President Obama is taking aim at States like North Dakota by leap-frogging Congress.  "It basically imposes a tax on rural electric consumers," says Daryl Hill, Media & Communications Relations, Basin Electric Power Cooperative.

Others say they've waited a long time for the President to act on campaign promises.  "This is the change that we've been looking for and the leadership we've been looking for in the Administration," says Wayde Schafer, Conservation Organizer, Dakota Chapter Sierra Club.

But energy producers credit low electricity rates as playing a significant role in North Dakota's good economy, since low-cost goods and services are based on low-cost electricity.  However, environmental advocates like Schafer note, "the cost of not doing anything is pretty steep too, because of weather-related disasters."

Even so, producers note further reducing emissions isn't a technological possibility -- at an economically viable price -- at this juncture.  "To capture one-fourth of the CO2 emissions from one unit would be about $500 million dollars," says Hill.

Still, environmental watchdogs say we must do better.  "North Dakota needs to do their part, because we do have seven coal-fired power plants that even though emissions are reduced and the pollution is reduced, they still are emitting CO2," says Schafer.  

"I think we can be very proud in this State by the fact that we have a very good way of developing energy and we've done it responsibly over the years," says Hill.

With an apparent lack of common ground all around, should the President follow through with stricter controls aimed at existing plants like those in North Dakota, legal challenges are to be expected.

Basin Electric says they've invested over a billion dollars to meet or beat environmental standards.  However, environmental advocates say eliminating coal -- an energy source from the turn of the last century -- should still be the goal.


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