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ND may stand alone in lawsuit over Clean Power Plan, AG says

BISMARCK-North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he's considering a standalone lawsuit over the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan because of the different potential claims that arise from how the plan "harshly" treats the state a...

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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem
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BISMARCK-North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he's considering a standalone lawsuit over the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan because of the different potential claims that arise from how the plan "harshly" treats the state and its lignite coal industry.

State officials have made the likelihood of a lawsuit known since June 2014 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first proposed the draft rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions nationwide by 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030, Stenehjem said.

The final rule is more aggressive, requiring a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

For North Dakota's seven coal-fired power plants, the mandated cut in carbon emissions climbed sharply between the draft rule and final rule, from 11 percent to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2030, said Stenehjem and Jason Bohrer, executive director of the Bismarck-based Lignite Energy Council.

"So far our analysis shows that the rule is far worse for North Dakota than we initially feared, and it appears we may have been treated more harshly than any other state in the country between the initial rule and the final one," Stenehjem said.

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North Dakota politicians have slammed the rule, saying it will inflate power costs and harm the economy.

At least 16 states, including South Dakota and coal powerhouses West Virginia and Wyoming, have asked the EPA not to put the rule into action until an impending multistate legal challenge can be heard in court.

Stenehjem said North Dakota will decide whether to pull the trigger on its own lawsuit as soon as the rule is published in the Federal Register, which could be as early as next week, he said.

"We think things are unique for North Dakota, especially because of our lignite energy resources in the state, and we have potential claims that are different for our state," he said. "And so if we file a lawsuit, it'll be our own."

Bohrer said the lignite council has reviewed the rule and identified legal arguments, one of which deals with the magnitude of the change between the draft rule and final rule.

"I think there are definitely a few arguments that would be best served by a standalone (lawsuit), because there are some things that are very specific to the lignite industry," he said.

Related Topics: WAYNE STENEHJEM
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