On a national level, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed carbon dioxide regulations for coal-based power plants that will adversely impact consumers, businesses, and the economies of North Dakota and Minnesota. The rules have the potential to be a recipe for disaster for coal-based generating stations that supply low-cost, reliable electricity to about 40 percent of the nation – and double that in North Dakota. The EPA’s over-regulation will harm the coal, manufacturing, and refining industries in the region, and could result in displacement of thousands of workers.
New Source Performance Standards
The EPA has proposed a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) that will impose a cap of 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per megawatt hour for new fossil fuel-fired electric power plants, a level that is 40-50% lower than what is achievable for coal-fired power plants with commercial technology that is currently available.
Existing Source Performance Standards
The EPA has proposed regulations for existing power plants that would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.
As a practical matter under the Clean Air Act, the statute authorizes the EPA to set standards for existing plants but defers to states to develop implementation plans to achieve the standard. Under the EPA’s timeline, states would be expected to submit their final implementation plans by June 2016.
Waters of the United States
The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers recently released a draft rule to significantly broaden the scope of their authority under the Clean Water Act by expanding the definition of “waters of the United States.” The guidance would reverse U.S. Supreme Court decisions setting limits on the federal government’s authority to regulate waters without Congressional action.
Under the draft rule, the EPA and the Corps intend to expand their regulatory control beyond “navigable waterways” to include waters now considered entirely under state jurisdiction. This expansive federal approach signals a clear intent to restrict the use of private land and supersede the authority of state and local governments to make local land and water use decisions. This regulation will greatly increase the number of waters found to be subject to CWA jurisdiction and will significantly increase the permitting burden on landowners and businesses.
Excessive regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are creating a de facto federal energy policy, in many cases that exceeds the authority given to the agency by law. Most people agree that as our energy needs grow in the United States, it’s more important than ever that we use all of our resources to ensure we have an abundant energy source that is affordable and reliable.
However, EPA’s energy policy would result in higher electricity prices from sources that are less dependable than 24-7 coal-based power plants. Congress, with support from scientists at the Department of Energy, should craft an all-of-the-above energy policy.
The health of the U.S. economy will suffer if companies and manufacturers cannot compete on a global basis. Families and farms would also be hurt if energy prices rise and our power supply becomes less reliable. In our northern climate, the differences between affordable and reliable electricity and a future of high priced, intermittent power could be the difference between life and death.
Minnesota Next Generation
The Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act, which targets reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, was signed into law in 2007. It requires that 25 percent of utilities’ retail electricity sales come from renewable sources by 2025. The law could directly impact the coal industry’s ability to provide affordable electricity for Minnesota families, businesses and manufacturers. Now, there is talk among some policy makers and environmental groups about expanding this mandate, despite the increased prices it would force upon consumers.
In a study by the National Association of Manufacturers in 2012, a cap and trade plan as outlined by policymakers would have the following impact on Minnesota:
The cost of using natural gas would increase by more than 40 percent in the first year of the carbon tax study, adding to household energy bills and increasing operation costs for many Minnesota businesses.
Prices at the pump would jump by more than 20 cents a gallon in 2013.
Households in Minnesota would see a significant increase in their electricity rates, with an average increase of 4.8 percent in the first year.
This tax would deal a blow to employment in Minnesota, with a loss of worker income equivalent to 24,000 jobs in the first year and 46,000 to 59,000 by 2023.