Cramer Speaks on House Floor in Advance of EPA Power Plant Regulations
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Kevin Cramer spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday evening in advance of drastic new restrictions on power plants expected from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday.
The proposed New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) is one piece of the regulatory follow-up to a June speech given by President Obama, in which he ordered the EPA to effectively block the construction of new coal-fired power plants by restricting carbon emissions.
The second piece is set to arrive next year, when the agency intends to restrict carbon emissions from existing power plants.
A transcript of Cramer’s remarks is below:
“I love the opportunity to tell the story of North Dakota. A lot of people think of North Dakota these days as just an oil producing state out there in the wild west. While we are the second leading producer of oil and we’re rather proud of how well we do it, long before that, even long before North Dakota was one of the top ten producers of wind energy, long before that, North Dakota was producing electricity by burning coal. For decades, North Dakota has been generating electricity burning coal. In fact, at the current burn rate, there is an 800 year supply of lignite coal under our prairies.
“Prior to being elected to this great institution of the people’s House, I was a Public Service Commissioner for 10 years and carried the portfolio of coal mining in our state. I got to oversee the data collection, the pre-mine permitting, the permitting of the mine, the inspections of the mines, the releasing of the bond at the end of the life of the mine. North Dakota companies mine over 30 million tons of coal every year, Mr. Speaker, and currently we have 120,000 acres under permit for coal mining in our state. It is very important to North Dakota as it is to the rest of the nation.
“The Lignite Coal industry in North Dakota, a state of fewer than 700,000 citizens, employs more than 28,000 of those 700,000 people, and has an annual economic impact in our little state of 3 billion dollars and generates over 100 million dollars of tax revenue to help fund the priorities of our state. To provide some perspective, Mr. Speaker, on the wage impact of the industry in North Dakota, two counties, Mercer and Oliver counties, are home to three coal mines and five generating plants. And they are the two counties with the highest wages of any county in our state, and we have a state with very high wages. But those direct economic benefits are just a small part of our story, because you see, 79% of North Dakota’s lignite is used to generate electricity for over 2 million citizens in the Upper Midwest. 13.5% is used to generate synthetic natural gas that is piped to over 400,000 homes in the east. And every time I have this opportunity to address the House, I like to tell a little piece of this story. You see, 7.5% of that coal is used to generate fertilizer for our number one industry, agriculture. It’s a great part of our culture. It’s what I believe makes us very good at coal mining. It’s those agricultural roots.
“Let’s talk about electricity generation for a moment. It’s under such attack today. No industry in America is more under attack today by this administration. We are home to seven plants owned by rural electric cooperatives and investor owned utilities, and provides low-cost electricity to our region. Beyond the direct employment of high paying jobs in this industry by the coal mines, the generation plants, the transmission companies utilities that distribute the electricity, our low cost coal provides the region with some of the cheapest utility rates in the country.
“In fact just today I printed out the most recent Electric Power Monthly Report on the Average Retail Price of Electricity by state year-to-date, and North Dakota and the state of Washington have the lowest retail prices in the country. Can you imagine what a tremendous advantage that is in the global marketplace when you are trying to attract other industries as my colleague from Kentucky talked about.
“We are also home to the Great Plains Synfuels Plant which takes our coal and turns it into gas that is used by homes and industry. In the process of gasifying the coal, 50% of the carbon dioxide is captured and shipped via pipeline to Saskatchewan for tertiary oil recovery. So we capture half of the carbon, and then inject it into old oil wells and generate more oil from it. Long before carbon capture and sequestration was cool, North Dakota innovators saw it as a commercially viable by-product of energy development. And all that is going to be squashed by these rules we are hearing about this week.
“Another innovation of our coal that we use the ash from the plants. Instead of being emitted out of the stacks, it is collected. And other entrepreneurial minded individuals have discovered productive ways to utilize coal ash instead of sending it to landfills. It creates a stronger, longer lasting, and easier to work with concrete that’s used in our nation’s infrastructure, something we need very badly these days. It’s used in paint, insulation for stoves and refrigerators, ceiling and flooring tiles, lumber, bricks and masonry, shingles and roofing materials. This is a byproduct, not a waste product. And it’s certainly safe.
“Coal ash is used to make better bridges, like the new I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, better footings for wind towers. The many, many wind towers in North Dakota are actually attached to coal ash concrete, and their ability to sell this byproduct allows our utilities to keep electricity rates down for everyone.
“But you might ask what of the environment? After all, it is the air, land and water that concern the magnitude of rules and regulations coming at our industries in such zeal out of this administration.
“I love talking about our environment in North Dakota. I submit to you Mr. Speaker and to our colleagues that very few places on earth are cleaner and greener than the state of North Dakota.
“With regard to our air, you might assume that a state with seven power plants would have dirty air, but no, we are one of very few states that meet all ambient air quality standards as prescribed by the EPA. We’re very proud of that.
“Oh, and remember those two counties, Mercer and Oliver, with the five power plants and the three coal mines? Once again this year they received an “A” grade from the American Lung Association for their clean air in their annual report for 2012. But perhaps the area I am most proud of is the reclamation of our mined lands.
“Before the federal government passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the state of North Dakota passed its own reclamation laws which were stricter, with higher standards. We returned our land to pre-mining use. I wish every Member of Congress, and our President, could come to North Dakota and see how good America could be. And see how we reclaim our land, because we love our land. We’re farmers and ranchers. Our mines take great pride in and invest vast resources in protecting of our environment, their environment. Our companies have won many awards for stewardship. And you see, coal miners and utility company employees not enjoy high paying jobs, but they live there, they breathe the air, the drink the water, they farm the land. They are farmers, engineers, accountants, machinery operators, environmental scientists, rangeland biologists, and truck drivers.
“The care of our natural resources is more important us than it is to the EPA, quite honestly. And we do it quite well.
“We’re a place made up of people who have proven for centuries you do not have to compromise quality of life for a high standard of living. We are an all of the above state. And I’m very, very proud of it. I’m proud to be here with you, my colleague from Ohio, Mr. Johnson, to tell the story one more time about the importance of this industry. And if a war on coal is what’s being waged, then we better be armed for the war because it’s worth fighting for. It’s for our future.”