North Dakota leadership, EPA discussed during EmPower conference

Basin Electric representatives highlighted the benefits of partnering with outside coalitions, supporting states’ rights, and better understanding the energy regulatory process.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative – October 18, 2013

Presentations regarding North Dakota’s energy leadership role and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were continuous throughout the seventh annual Great Plains EmPower ND Energy Conference on Oct. 15.

Political and energy leaders gathered at Bismarck State College’s  National Energy Center of Excellence, Bismarck, ND, to discuss the benefits of partnering with outside coalitions, supporting states’ rights, and better understanding the energy regulatory process.

Thomas Fanning, chairman, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Southern Company, which provides electricity throughout southeastern states, talked about electricity, financial integrity and energy policy.

“The way we’re seeming to move the EPA is with coalitions going together,” said Dale Niezwaag, Basin Electric senior legislative representative, during a Q&A session with Fanning. “Isn’t it possible to bring energy states together, and would Southern Company be willing to look at joining a coalition?”

Fanning stressed the idea of rooting for the United States as a whole, and not merely any one state when it comes to energy.

“What we have to do is figure out the right coalitions, the right solutions, to bring the right policy,” Fanning said. “We’re committed to help however we can.”

Fanning also said North Dakota is an energy leader, and deserves the proper support.

“What I want to do is leverage what you’re doing, across the United States,” he said.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem also spoke and addressed other states’ thoughts on EPA’s potential to infringe on states’ rights.

Stenehjem said the idea of states’ rights has been valued for years, and states should work together when facing energy policy.

“It’s exceedingly useful when you can ban together and share the work,” Stenehjem said.

Mike Eggl, Basin Electric senior vice president of Communications and Administration, participated in a panel with Stenehjem and Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Tony Clark focusing on states’ involvement in regulations, especially with the EPA.

“The way the EPA has approached its relationship with the states has changed significantly. The EPA has, in the past, allowed states to move forward over what’s called a SIP (State Implementation Plan). The EPA has moved forward in recent years with more federal implementation plan overlays than any other time,” Eggl said. “Many of them are surrounding this issue of regional haze.”

Eggl added that the way EPA enforces and interprets rules is changing, and Basin Electric and other utilities are dedicated to addressing regional haze.

“Basin Electric, Great River Energy and Minnkota are also heavily engaged in how this works, not just in North Dakota, but in other states,” he continued. “The same process is taking place in the state of Wyoming right now.”

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple also spoke during the event, addressing topics of energy efficiency and energy growth in North Dakota. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND) reached out to attendees through video.

For more information on the Energy Conference, see stories by KXNews and KFYR.