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EPA Haze proposal doesn't make sense for MN, ND

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Environmental issues have garnered a significant level of discussion in the United States and this region during the past several months.

The latest debate in this region affects Minnkota Power Cooperative, the wholesale supplier to member-owner electric distribution cooperatives in this region, Minnkota's member-owners and Northern Municipal Power Agency (NMPA) members.

It's a dispute between the state of North Dakota and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the best way to improve visibility; it is not about health. On Sept. 21, the EPA announced its intention to take over the state of North Dakota's Regional Haze program to improve visibility in areas including Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge wilderness area.

As members of the public, we have an opportunity to comment on the EPA's actions through Nov. 21. The EPA must consider all comments submitted before taking final action. Minnkota has worked with others in this region to develop a website, www.stopEPAnd.com, where people can follow a "Take Action" link to submit formal comments.

North Dakota's state plan to address nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, the EPA says, isn't good enough for Minnkota's Milton R. Young Station, Basin Electric Cooperative's Leland Olds and Antelope Valley stations and Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station.

Minnkota recently installed Over-Fire Air (OFA)+Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) technology that is proven to work on cyclone-fired boilers fueled with high-sodium North Dakota lignite coal. OFA+SNCR technology is anticipated to reduce 55 to 60 percent of NOx emissions and cost Minnkota $40 million to install.

Now the EPA wants to force Minnkota to add an additional technology called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) that the agency believes will reduce more than 90 percent of the NOx emissions. SCR, which has not been demonstrated to work on North Dakota lignite coal, could cost Minnkota an additional $500 million to install. Statewide, it could cost power plants more than $700 million for various technologies required to meet EPA standards.

If the EPA successfully forces Minnkota to install SCR technology, Minnkota could see a 30 to 35 percent cost increase. This could translate into a 20 to 30 percent retail rate increase by member cooperatives and NMPA municipals.

We at Minnkota believe the EPA should not take over the state of North Dakota's plan to improve visibility with this Federal Implementation Plan (FIP), and we need your help to get the word to the EPA. North Dakota's plan achieves significant emission reductions and improved visibility while taking into account feasibility and cost-effectiveness.

And modeling done by the state of North Dakota shows that, even if all the power plants in North Dakota were shut down, the state still couldn't meet visibility goals because of significant emissions coming from other states and Canada.

Remember, the current debate issue is not about health. The state is already easily meeting required National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which protect health. In fact, in 2010 the American Lung Association identified eight North Dakota counties, including Mercer and Oliver counties (home to several coal-based power plants), as having "A" grades for clean air. Oliver County is home to Minnkota's Young Station.

Consumers in our region enjoy some of the cleanest air in the country and are paying for about $425 million in environmental upgrades installed in the last few years. Does it really make sense to require huge additional investments for visibility improvement that, even if it did work, would be imperceptible to the human eye? The state of North Dakota doesn't think so, and Minnkota agrees. The overreaching EPA goes too far in attempting to take away North Dakota's authority to implement federal Clean Air Act rules in the state.

So go to www.stopEPAnd.com and tell the EPA the FIP is not right for the consumers in this region. -- Mac McLennan, president-CEO Minnkota Power Cooperative

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