|Xcel Energy’s Sherco Power Plant is shown in Becker, Minn. A divided Supreme Court agreed Feb. 9, 2016, to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved. The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab." (Jason Wachter/St. Cloud Times via AP, File)|
Justices have put the rules on hold while a legal challenge led by the state proceeds. The White House issued a statement saying it disagreed with the decision and that "we remain confident that we will prevail on the merits."
President Barack Obama last August unveiled rules designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Under the new standards, North Dakota must cut its emission rate by almost 45 percent by 2030 — a reduction that state and industry officials believe could jeopardize North Dakota's seven coal-fueled power plants and $4 billion lignite industry.
North Dakota and nearly 30 other states sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the new standards. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said in a statement late Tuesday that North Dakota now need not comply with what he calls "this radical rule" until court action concludes, "at which time North Dakota expects the courts to declare EPA's Clean Power Plan rule unlawful."
Members of North Dakota's congressional delegation — Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer — all issued statements late Tuesday praising the Supreme Court decision.
"These EPA rules would disproportionately hurt North Dakota and were written without taking into account the unique challenges utilities face in our state," Heitkamp said.
Lignite Energy Council President Jason Bohrer has said that the North Dakota plants are in danger of being shuttered because there is no cost-effective technology commercially available to remove carbon dioxide from lignite, an abundant but low-grade coal that is mined in the state.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple said Wednesday that he hopes the Supreme Court action "will usher in a new approach where Congress, regulators, industry and consumers are brought together to develop a responsible strategy for continued reductions in CO2 emissions."
State health officials have been working to develop an implementation plan for the new rules even as the state tries to stop them in court. Stenehjem said he believes the case eventually will be resolved by the Supreme Court.