Though not in the heart of Coal Country, Bismarck-Mandan is affected by the coal industry and the local business community will voice its support.
The North Dakota Department of Health will host the third in a series of meetings in Bismarck on Monday, garnering public input on a state plan to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
“It is starting to create a lot of interest,” said Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce President Kelvin Hullet, adding that many chamber members rely on the coal industry for business, including construction companies and electricians who service the industry. Coal companies also purchase vehicles and heavy equipment from Bismarck-Mandan dealerships.
The chamber plans to offer its opinion on a proposed state plan that would reduce carbon emissions by 45 percent from 2012 levels into 2030 as mandated by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Monday’s meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Bismarck State College National Energy Center of Excellence.
Hullet said the chamber believes the state and industry have a long history of crafting energy solutions that also protect the environment. As a result, the chamber is in favor of the state drafting its own implementation plan.
The chamber also will ask that the Health Department’s plan be drafted in a way that will keep North Dakota’s coal plants operational, Hullet said.
Bismarck-Mandan has an integrated relationship with Coal Country, Hullet said. Several of the utility companies, including Great River Energy Power Cooperative, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, have corporate headquarters in Bismarck-Mandan and the community counts on those jobs. In addition, many plant and mine workers live in Bismarck-Mandan and commute to work.
Affordable, reliable energy is another concern. Hullet said, as a rural state competing with larger markets for businesses and employees, low-cost energy is an asset for attraction.
The EPA estimates the cost of emission rate credits, which may be available for purchase by utilities that want to keep coal plants operational, at $30 per ton of carbon. Hullet said that would amount to $350 million annually that would be passed down to utility customers.
Hullet said he has received many calls from chamber members concerned about the affordability of electricity and expects a large turnout by business at Monday’s meeting.
Any effect on the coal industry would have a ripple effect in Bismarck-Mandan.
“The mines have a far-reaching economic impact in our community,” Hullet said.
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- On November 15, 2015