- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday signaled a potential legal challenge to proposed federal rules aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.

“We cannot jump to a much higher standard for CO2 overnight,” the Republican governor told representatives from more than 20 states and companies that own utilities and power plants. “It simply is not possible. It’s not attainable, and we will fight that with every tool that we have available.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is crafting rules, part of a Climate Action Plan released by President Barack Obama last year, that would cap emissions at existing coal-fired power plants and set limits for emissions on all new coal plants. If adopted, new coal plants would be limited to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour of electricity they generate. The current average for the seven coal-fired plants in North Dakota is about 2,250 pounds per megawatt hour.

The EPA plans to release a draft of the rules in June and a final version a year later. The deadline for states to submit plans to meet the new rules is June 2016.

The North Dakota Health Department and Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative hosted the two-day meeting that organizers said was intended to foster discussion on how states should respond to the new requirements.

“We have an opportunity to do some communicating at this key stage of the process that might just do some good,” Dalrymple told the more than 100 officials in attendance, including some EPA representatives.

The GOP governor did “acknowledge that CO2 does have an impact on climate. But we don’t know the extent of the impact. We would certainly not argue that is has an impact that needs to be controlled over the long haul.”

Dalrymple said the administration’s proposed rules for carbon dioxide emissions must be practical and based on technology that is commercially viable and cost-effective. He said the state’s coal-fired power plants continue to reduce emissions, and that unattainable standards would undermine the nation’s energy security and could lead to higher utility rates for customers and lost jobs.

Joseph Gossman, an EPA assistant administrator and senior counsel, said in an interview that comments from the two-day meeting that ends Thursday would be considered in the agency’s rulemaking. He called the meeting a “problem-solving opportunity.”

In February, the head of the EPA faced tough crowds in North Dakota while meeting with the state’s congressional delegation and industry officials to address recent agency proposals.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy called it a listening session and said the visit to North Dakota - her first as EPA’s top official - was a chance to observe “intended and unintended consequences of our actions.”