ND Rep. wants to block EPA carbon dioxide regs

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MANDAN, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy believes lawmakers suffering “buyer’s remorse” over the House’s approval of carbon dioxide limits will support his legislation to block the Environmental Protection Agency from writing its own greenhouse gas restrictions.

Any regulation of carbon dioxide should be Congress’ job, the North Dakota Democrat said Friday at the Mandan headquarters of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, whose members are worried about the impact of possible carbon rules on electric rates.

“It affects us all, especially right down to every consumer,” said Robert Grant, of Berthold, who is president of the rural electric group’s board of directors. “The things that could happen with EPA regulation — our costs could skyrocket.”

Last month, the EPA concluded that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a danger to public health, clearing the way for the agency to consider rules to limit them. The EPA and the Department of Transportation already are considering greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and trucks.

The agency’s decision stems from a 1999 complaint filed by environmental and renewable energy organizations. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are air pollutants under federal clean-air laws, and that the EPA had to explore whether they posed a threat to public health.

Pomeroy said his legislation would effectively reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling by declaring that the federal clean-air laws used to decide the case were not meant to apply to greenhouse gases.

“Comprehensive regulations to address global climate change must only be enacted at the direction of Congress, and if Congress specifically intends such regulations to be implemented,” part of the bill reads.

Last June, the U.S. House voted 219-212 to approve “cap-and-trade” legislation, which establishes a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and gives companies a method to trade emission credits among themselves. The measure has languished in the Senate.

Pomeroy voted against the bill, and said Friday at the Mandan news conference that there was “a lot of buyer’s remorse” among its supporters.

“Some of the people who voted for this bill are darn sorry they did,” Pomeroy said. “They might look very eagerly for a chance to get well on this issue.”

He said EPA regulations could make it difficult for North Dakota’s coal-fueled electric power plants and other large energy facilities, such as the Tesoro refinery at Mandan and the Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, to undertake regular maintenance without running the risk of triggering requirements for new, costly equipment.

Grant said three major suppliers of electric power to rural electric cooperatives — Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck, Minnkota Power Cooperative of Grand Forks and Great River Energy of Maple Grove, Minn. — are holding back on projects “because of the uncertainty of what’s going to happen.”

Pomeroy’s bill is in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, whose chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is a principal sponsor of the cap-and-trade measure that Pomeroy opposed.

Pomeroy said it was unlikely his bill would get committee approval, but said it could be attached to budget legislation. He expects his proposal will get support from Republicans, conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats and disaffected cap-and-trade backers.