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Thune Leads Bipartisan Group in Denouncing Costly EPA Mandate

Federal plan would increase energy costs for South Dakotans

August 8, 2013

Washington, D.C. — 

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing opposition to the agency’s recently announced federal implementation plan in Wyoming under the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Program. This mandate will negatively impact South Dakota ratepayers due to the exceptionally high cost of the required technology, while achieving very limited visibility improvements.

“The state of Wyoming’s plan adequately addresses regional haze and visibility issues at a reasonable cost, yet the EPA is now circumventing the state and trying to mandate unnecessary technology that is estimated to cost more than $1 billion in capital costs and millions of dollars more in annual operating costs,” said Thune. “South Dakota ratepayers will be left footing the bill for higher electricity rates with no noticeable improvement in visibility.”

Thune was joined by Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Representatives Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in his letter.

The text of their letter follows:

August 8, 2013

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460 

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

We recognize the importance of clean air and the role of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that there are policies in place to reduce visibility impacts on our national parks and other Class I areas. To accomplish that goal, the State of Wyoming has developed a comprehensive plan to protect and build on Wyoming’s clean air, as have our home states of South Dakota and North Dakota.

Recently, the EPA announced its proposal to disapprove portions of Wyoming’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) for compliance with the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program, and is imposing a new plan that requires the installation of much more costly technology on several plants in the state. This decision is concerning and could potentially be very costly to ratepayers across the region, including approximately 700,000 South Dakotans and North Dakotans, many of them living in rural areas in our states.

Specifically, the EPA is proposing that key Wyoming power plants install selective catalytic reduction technologies on their units to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels, which could potentially amount to more than $1 billion in capital costs and millions of dollars in annual operating expenses. The state’s plan calls for upgrades that cost a fraction of that expenditure, while efficiently reducing emissions and improving visibility in Class I areas. The Wyoming plan reduces NOx emissions by tens of thousands of tons per year. The cost of the additional reductions proposed by EPA is altogether disproportionate to the negligible visibility benefit that would be achieved.

Despite the progress included in the state’s plan, the EPA wants to set aside major portions of Wyoming’s Regional Haze implementation plan in order to impose its own federal program, ignoring the efforts of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to establish a plan that provides visibility improvement at a reasonable cost. The EPA plan is an expense that would inevitably affect power consumers during a time when our economy is already suffering. This makes little sense in light of effective and less expensive alternatives.

Because the power in the upper Midwest is generated for the region as a whole, the EPA’s proposed plan could have significant impacts on families and businesses in South Dakota and North Dakota. Given that the state’s plan meets the requirements of the statute, we would urge you to revisit this issue and thoroughly analyze whether EPA has grounds to impose a federal plan - a plan with huge costs and imperceptible benefits.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Senator John Thune
Senator Tim Johnson
Senator John Hoeven
Senator Heidi Heitkamp
Representative Kristi Noem
Representative Kevin Cramer