BISMARCK — Changes could be coming in the way power plants dispose of dangerous heavy metals and coal ash.
But how could the changes have an impact here?
That’s because the EPA has proposed easing two rules put in place by the Obama Administration.
The first reduces rules on how heavy metals like mercury and arsenic must be cleaned before being deposited in streams and rivers. A rule put in place in 2015 that doesn’t have much effect on North Dakota.
“This doesn’t help Basin Electric. None of our plants discharge that type of water, so it’s a relaxation of a rule that has no impact on us,” said Kevin Solie, Senior Environmental Compliance Administrator with Basin Electric.
The second would extend the deadline companies have to clean up or close unlined coal ash dumps that are close to groundwater.
Wayde Schafer is the conservation organizer for the Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club and told KX News the news is nothing but bad for the environment.
“Ninety-five percent of the coal ash containment ponds are unlined, and so they’re seeping into groundwater, and with any flooding events they’re subject to overflowing and into waterways that provide drinking water for Americans,” said Schafer.
North Dakota Ranks 14th in the country in coal ash generation. Basin Electric operates a pair of coal-fired plants on either side of Beulah, and they told KX News the new rules are not a free pass to start polluting.
“Basin has spent tens of millions of dollars over the past few years, complying with these different rules, the effect of this latest rulemaking is that there is no benefit to us, in fact, some of the deadlines got tighter for us,” said Solie.
Those deadlines include ceasing operation of four Wyoming Coal Ash Ponds by August of next year.
The proposals come at a time when the coal industry is struggling against greener solutions such as wind and solar power.
In fact, Montana Dakota Utilities announced earlier this year the RM Heskett Station in Mandan will retire its coal-fired units in 2021 and replace them with a new natural gas facility.
The Trump Administration will offer a 60 day public comment period on the proposed changes.
The Sierra Club told KX News they will be submitting feedback.