Posted: Apr 03, 2017 03:09 PM CDT
Updated: Apr 03, 2017 06:42 PM CDT
(Tim Olson, KX News) When President Trump signed an executive order to dismantle Obama-era regulations on carbon emissions, North Dakota’s lignite coal industry breathed a sigh of relief – that’s according to Dale Niezwaag with Basin Electric Power Coop.
(Dale Niezwaag, Basin Electric Power Cooperative) “With the new administration in place, we don’t have to look at making major decisions on generation on such a tight timeline.”
(Olson) Niezwaag says the Clean Power Plan would have required coal-fired power plants to cut carbon emissions substantially by the year 2022 – a goal that energy officials called unrealistic.
(Niezwaag) “It would have meant having to shut down a lot of existing, and build a lot of new generation to replace that.”
(Olson) He says the rolling back of the Clean Power Plan will save jobs in North Dakota’s energy sector.
But not everyone is on board with the federal decision.
(Don Morrison, Executive Director – Dakota Resource Council) “If we just leave it up to the industry, we have no idea what kind of future we’re gonna have.”
(Olson) That’s Don Morrison of the Dakota Resource Council – a grassroots organization that’s worried about what deregulation could mean for North Dakota in the long-term.
(Morrirson) “It pretty much is, ‘Get rules and regulations out of the way and let the industry do whatever they want to,’ which does not bode well for farmers and ranchers, and other folks who live around extractive industries. The track record is really bad.”
(Olson) But officials say the energy industry is still moving toward a carbon-constrained future – at a rate that the coal industry can sustain.
(Niezwaag) “Basin Electric being a cooperative, we take direction from our members, and our members have said we want to keep working toward a smaller footprint and cleaner generation – and we’ll keep doing that. But they’ve also said we want to keep coal in the mix.”
(Olson) Morrison says that in lieu of more strict regulation, it falls to North Dakotans to keep the energy industry accountable.
(Morrison) “We have a voice. ‘Don’t contaminate my land. Don’t contaminate my water, or my air, because we live here too.’ Sometimes the best way to influence the kind of life you want to live is local. And maybe that’s where change will start.”
(Olson) In Bismarck with your Eye On Energy, Tim Olson, KX News.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative operates two coal-fired power plants in North Dakota.