EPA head visits North Dakota at senator's request

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2014 at 8:05 pm •  Published: February 28, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The head of the Environmental Protection Agency faced tough crowds Friday during stops in North Dakota, where coal and ethanol continue to be a big part of the oil-rich state's energy mix.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy met with the state's congressional delegation and industry officials to address recent EPA proposals and regulations for coal-fired power plants, biofuels and corn-based ethanol.

"The EPA needs to work with us, not against us," Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven told McCarthy at a meeting in Bismarck with renewable fuels officials and farm groups. "The best way for that to happen is for the administration to see what we do here."

McCarthy met with Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Thursday and farm groups and renewable fuel officials Friday morning in Bismarck. She later traveled to Beulah, home of Dakota Gasification Co., which operates a massive factory that makes natural gas from lignite, a low-grade but abundant coal in North Dakota.

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."

She assured officials that "in no way do I want anything I do to slow down" North Dakota's booming economy. She also said that the Obama administration's "all-of-the-above" energy strategy "is not just rhetoric, it's policy."

McCarthy traveled to the state at the invitation of Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who served as a member of the board of directors at the synthetic natural gas plant in Beulah until she was elected senator in 2012. Heitkamp, Hoeven and GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer have been highly critical of President Barack Obama's energy policies toward coal and his failure to approve the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would take about 100,000 barrels of domestic oil daily from North Dakota's Bakken region.

The delegation also has strongly opposed proposed changes to a renewable energy policy that would reduce the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline.

North Dakota has four ethanol factories and one under construction. Deana Wiese, executive director of the North Dakota Ethanol Council, said the state's ethanol factories have the capacity to produce 400 million gallons of the fuel annually, a tenfold increase since 2005.

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