Cass County Electric Cooperative members are encouraged to jump on board what could be called the “enough is enough” campaign. You are very much aware of the significant rate increases brought on by wholesale power cost increases the past couple of years. Now a new potential for even larger increases is on the near horizon.
The issue is called “Regional Haze” and involves a dispute between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of North Dakota. CCEC members are encouraged to let the EPA know that it should accept the plan developed by the state of North Dakota to improve visibility at the region’s national parks.
If the EPA proceeds as it now appears it will, we could be forced to pay as much as $500 million in additional capital investments to put in more emissions-reducing technology at the Milton R. Young Station. Here’s the real rub – the technology that the EPA is demanding be installed hasn’t been demonstrated to be compatible with lignite-fired coal plants and cyclone boilers! And even if it can be made compatible, it’s very doubtful that it will provide the results the EPA is claiming. In other words it’s highly doubtful that using this technology will improve the visibility in the target areas or anywhere else. Minnkota Power Cooperative, our wholesale power provider, just completed $420 million in capital investments at the Young Station for environmental upgrades. Spending a possible $500 million or more for no perceptible improvement in visibility simply doesn’t make any sense!
The dispute between North Dakota and the EPA is over how the state wants to meet the Regional Haze program federal regulations aimed at curbing emissions from coal-based plants and industrial sources to improve visibility at natural areas such as Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. This is a visibility and not a health-based program, according to our State Department of Health.
Terry O’Clair, the state Department of Health’s air quality director, said the EPA plan will cost plant owners millions of dollars and force them to use technology that is not proven to work on lignite. The state favors a technology that is proven to work on lignite, and will reduce more than 60 percent of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. Minnkota has already put that technology in place with Over-Fire Air with Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR).
“We’re saying this is the best, because we don’t know if the other one will work,” O’Clair said.
The EPA is ignoring North Dakota’s authority and local knowledge. A state’s authority and flexibility to regulate its own clean air programs is an essential part of the Clean Air Act. The Act is designed to prevent the federal government from substituting its inflexible judgment for a state’s superior knowledge of local conditions and needs.
North Dakota officials plan to fight an effort by the EPA to take over the state’s Regional Haze program that will affect the Young Station. We plan to help with the battle and are also asking members to be involved. We believe the EPA should approve the North Dakota Department of Health State Implementation Plan (SIP).
The EPA disagrees with the SIP for addressing NOx emissions at Minnkota’s Young Station and Basin Electric Power Cooperative’s Leland Olds and Antelope Valley plants. The EPA wants to use technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) that the agency believes will reduce more than 85 percent of the NOx emissions leaving the plants’ stacks. The EPA has indicated it intends to release its final plan on this Regional Haze issue as soon as August, and then hold a public comment period.
We hope an agreement can be worked out between the state and the EPA. If not, we’re going to need help from the members who pay the electric bills. In July, a website, http://www.stopepand.com, was developed to help facilitate comments on the proposed regulations. The site is active and once it is ready for comments, we’ll let you know, and tell you more about the effort in an upcoming publication.
The bottom line is if Minnkota is forced to put in more emissions controls on top of the work just completed at the Young Station, we could face another 30 to 35 percent increase in wholesale power costs each year to pay for it. Partners for Affordable Energy, a coalition of businesses and organizations in North Dakota, plans a campaign to get the public involved in supporting the state plan. Spokesman Steve Van Dyke said the issue is about visibility, not health.
“The EPA has decided to follow a ‘one-size-fits-all’ pattern in issuing a federal implementation plan,” he said.
This all comes during a year in which the American Lung Association’s State of the Air annual report gave eight North Dakota counties “A” grades for lack of ozone, also known as smog.
The association has compiled a State of the Air annual report each of the past 12 years, using local data that is submitted to EPA. This year’s report covers the years 2007 to 2009.
The eight counties, which are chosen because of major population centers or proximity to national parks and grasslands, include Billings, Burke, Burleigh, Cass, Dunn, McKenzie, Mercer and Oliver. Minnkota’s Young Station is located in Oliver County. North Dakota is one of 12 states to meet strict federal ambient air quality standards.
“North Dakotans breathe some of the cleanest air in the United States, in part because of emissions control technologies at the state’s seven coal-based power plants,” Van Dyke said.
The consumers of this region support clean air and have paid for those instruments, but we need everybody to get together and let the EPA and others know “enough is enough.”
What you can do:
• Write to our Congressional delegation and thank them for their support of Cass County Electric Cooperative members on this and several other issues involving the EPA. Encourage them to be especially watchful on the regional haze rule issue as it plays out in North Dakota. Their addresses are:
Rep. Rick Berg
323 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Sen. Kent Conrad
530 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3403
Sen. John Hoeven
120 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington DC, 20510
• For more information about Regional Haze and other industry information, visit our web site at kwh.com or go to http://www.stopepand.com.