FARGO – In a recent speech at Georgetown University, President Obama announced a broad new federal mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants. The President will instruct federal regulators to apply the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide produced from all power plants, existing and new, while completely bypassing congressional consideration and approval of his plan. We at Cass County Electric Cooperative (CCEC) join with North Dakota’s Congressional delegation in expressing grave concerns over the impacts this plan will have on our coal generation resources. We believe Sen. Heitkamp got it exactly right in a quote from a June 26, 2013 Bismarck Tribune article: “…several of the initiatives introduced today … amplify the administration’s continuing war on coal and coal-fired power.”
CCEC is especially concerned about the President’s scheme to impose a massive new climate tax upon all consumers because our members already spend disproportionately more on energy than other consumers across the country. That’s due to the $425 million investment Minnkota Power Cooperative (CCEC’s power supplier) has already made to its coal plants to significantly reduce emissions, plus the significant amount of wind energy being purchased, which is more costly than our existing generation. Add to that the fact that it just plain takes a lot more energy to live where we live.
The President’s climate plan for power plants appears to fail to take into account electric cooperatives’ existing efforts to integrate renewable energy into our resource portfolios. CCEC is already a leader in supporting renewable energy by providing about 30% of our members’ energy requirements from wind energy.
There is one aspect of the President’s plan we can accept – a brief mention of energy efficiency. CCEC has been at the forefront of energy efficiency initiatives for decades, working hard to help members be as efficient and productive as possible which has also reduced the need to build expensive new power plants.
“The President’s proposal will hit our members, their families and businesses here awfully hard,” said Scott Handy, CCEC’s President/CEO. “The regulations we anticipate from the EPA at the President’s direction through his memorandum, will be very costly, unattainable, and simply unworkable. Even worse, there is no known technology that exists that would enable our North Dakota lignite coal-fired power plants to meet reduced-carbon regulations. The most likely scenario would be to shut the plants down while continuing to absorb those stranded costs into our member rates. We’d also have to find new sources of power to replace them, which will be even more expensive. We just don’t believe that’s even remotely possible for our membership to accept.”
“Ultimately, CCEC is about providing the affordable, reliable power our members need to improve their quality of life,” said Scott Handy. “The President’s proposed regulations on carbon dioxide will make electric power much more expensive, causing families and businesses to further sacrifice on top of all the other uncertainty in our national economy. Without question, electric bills will get much bigger for Americans, especially those who can least afford to pay them.”
“We must help the President see the importance of affordable electric power to drive our economy and allow our members to prosper, and we’ll be asking for our members’ help to bring it to his attention.”