Kevin Cramer: North Dakota Has A Looming Power Shortage Problem


Yesterday I wrote about a Public Service Commissioner from Montana warning that the Bakken region could face “brownouts” (basically shortages in power availability) by 2015 due to regulatory holdups plaguing power infrastructure projects.

That Montana official, Travis Kavulla, was talking about, among other things, transmission lines (specifically the Basin Electric lines which would run through the Killdeer Mountain area). I noted that one of his North Dakota counterparts, Public Service Commissioner Randy Christmann, has similar concerns about the impact EPA power plant emissions standards could have on our ability to meet growing power demand in the state with new power generation.

Christmann told me in an interview that the EPA has set emissions standards high on purpose, so that new coal-fired power plants can’t hope to meet them. “It seems like they’re just picking a number that can’t be met,” he said. He also said that despite demand for power, there are no plans in the works for new power generation.

It’s badly needed.

“The transmission grid is running on maximum. It’s pretty much full all the time. It’s very sensitive to a thunderstorm going through.” That’s what Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms said last summer.

Which brings us to today. North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer questioned witnesses testifying on the EPA’s proposed regulations (which would apply to new power plants, though they have regs in the works for existing plants). “We have a demand for over 2,000 megawatts…that’s not being met,” Cramer said of North Dakota.

Cramer has been working to address this issue by backing legislation which just passed in the House which would require proposed standards for new plants to be shown achievable for a continuous 12-month period by at least six electric generating units at different plants, including a subcategory for at least three lignite units.

In other words, the legislation would require regulators to prove that proposed regulations are actually achievable before they’re implemented as law.