Hoeven, Serri share energy concerns during roundtable discussion

Basin Electric Power Cooperative – July 10, 2013

A week after Pres. Barack Obama proposed new standards for emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases at coal-fired power plants, Basin Electric Power Cooperative CEO and General Manager Andrew M. Serri shared concerns about the matter with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and other industry leaders during an energy roundtable discussion at Bismarck (ND) State College.

Among those present with Hoeven and Serri were representatives from the North Dakota Public Service Commission, Montana-Dakota Utilities, Great River Energy, North Dakota Petroleum Council, Minnkota and Lignite Energy Council.

The consensus during the roundtable was that a “states-first” approach is necessary when dealing with such emissions.

“This big, federal, bureaucratic, overregulation, one-size-fits-all does not work,” Hoeven said, adding that the president’s suggestions would hinder the construction of new coal plants. “The approach he’s proposing is not feasible.”

Serri agreed with Hoeven, stating that utilizing all sources of energy is necessary to effectively serve members.

“We cannot just have all natural gas, or all wind, or solar. We can’t throw any of those technologies under the bus, so to speak,” Serri said. “We have to use all the tools in our toolbox to meet the needs that we have.”

Acknowledging the president’s plan “has the effect of putting paralysis on the construction of any major coal plant,” Serri also suggested a more effective approach to managing emissions.

“We have a need now, and we need a comprehensive energy policy,” he said, adding that low-cost energy, which would be hit by Obama’s proposal, is a major reason why there is booming business in North Dakota. If that goes away, he said, that economy growth could be affected.

“We’re spending, literally, billions of dollars for energy infrastructure up in the Bakken oil fields,” Serri said. “We’re adding 300 megawatts of gas-fired generation.”

As he spoke with Serri and other leaders in the energy industry, Hoeven expressed his appreciation for “more energy with better environmental stewardship,” and maintained the president’s proposal is wrong for North Dakota. “What we’re doing here in North Dakota is the right approach, which is empowering investment,” Hoeven said.

Hoeven also highlighted benefits of the Keystone XL Pipeline during the roundtable, after Obama said the project, which would extend from Canada to Texas, should only be approved if it doesn’t worsen carbon pollution.

“Obviously, (the pipeline is) something that affects us directly here in North Dakota,” Hoeven said. “We take 500 trucks a day off the road when that pipeline is built.” The pipeline would result in lower oil costs, safety for citizens, and limits on wear and tear of roads, he added.

Serri finished roundtable discussions by sharing what he says is a key factor when analyzing the president’s plans.

“I think a big part of it is education. When the president talks about clean air, climate change, it’s everything that everybody around this room wants to partake in,” he said, adding that it is important to consider the quality of life that affordable, cheap electricity brings to the average American.