A Daughter’s Letter

Posted December 4, 2015

Paige Burling, a student at the University of North Dakota, wrote a heartfelt letter to the editor recently about the Clean Power Plan and its impact on her family. Here’s the full letter:


paigeMy Dad is your typical, hard-working, North Dakotan that works in the power industry. He wakes up while the sun is still down and drives fifteen miles to work a twelve hour shift so that everyone else can wake up and turn their lights on, a luxury that the government is pulling out of the grasp of many North Dakotans with their Clean Power Plan that they published in August of 2015. As of late, families like mine have gone into a state-widepanic because the EPA is cracking down on coal-fired power plants, places that create jobs for a majority of my hometown and the surrounding area — Coal Country.

Let’s start by looking at the facts. The United States is, on average, accounting for roughly 5 percent of the pollution that is being released into our precious air. By eliminating this 5 percent by implementing the Clean Power Plan, we would change the Earth’s temperature by less than two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the year 2100. So why are we cracking down so harshly on the power plants, when we will see such little benefit? North Dakota is known for its wide-open spaces and some of the cleanest air in the country, yet the Plan is hitting our state the hardest. Coal-fired power plants have been given a bad stigma, regardless of all of the changes they have made and the millions of dollars that they have spent to reduce their carbon emissions. Yet, China is commissioning a new coal-fired power plant every 28 days and nothing is being done.

One aspect that seems to be beyond the comprehension of the EPA: when people can’t afford to heat their homes with affordable electricity because their rates double or triple, a lot of them will seek out other methods of providing that heat. They may convert to natural gas, propane, coal, or even wood. All of these sources give off the very gas that the EPA is using to disable our energy industry. But, how many homes that will switch to burning these fuels have the vast array of pollution controls that the plants creating their electricity have installed over the years? None.

Another overlooked part of the so called Clean Power Plan is that the companies that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars installing emissions controls over the past years are being punished for doing so, as the baseline for the unachievable goals doesn’t take any of that into account – if you’ve already reduced your emissions by over 50%, you get no credit, and have to start where you’re at now.

If the Clean Power Plan actually prevails, many North Dakotans won’t be able to afford the “new” energy that is being created. North Dakota’s ruthless winters will actually become a threat to many families that live below the poverty line that already struggle to pay their energy bills. Not only this, but thousands of jobs, like my Dad’s, will be in jeopardy. Our beloved small communities will be turned into ghost towns as our economy takes a nosedive.

Many of you reading this probably know my Dad, whether he pulled you over for speeding over ten years ago, was the first one on the scene to help a loved one in a car accident, put out a fire that tried to destroy your fields, or coached your son or daughter, sister or brother in hockey. What many of you might not know is that when I was in middle school, he went back to college to get a degree in Power Plant Technology to better provide for his family. I watched him work tirelessly to create a better life for my Mom, brother, and I. Now I have to sit back and watch everything that he’s achieved potentially get taken away. I’ve also had the opportunity to work at the same power plant that he works at for the past four summers, and have gotten to know many of his coworkers. I can honestly say that I’ve never met more genuine, hard-working, caring people, and our government is trying to take away their income, while the rest of us can do little to prevent this. I understand that people are worried about our environment, and I am too. However, there are other ways to prevent the issues that we’re trying to eliminate. Some of you might not have given this topic much thought, but keep in mind, it’s all fun and games until the lights don’t come on.

Paige Burling is a student at the University of North Dakota.