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Leter: Congress, not EPA, should direct energy policy

In late June, President Obama announced plans to have the EPA regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-based plans by 2016. The plan is another example of how unelected bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are directing energy policy rather than Congress through the legislative process. The regional lignite industry has a long history of using North Dakota's abundant coal reserves to provide affordable and reliable electricity to 2 million customers in Minnesota and other Upper Midwestern states.

Substituting natural gas for coal to generate electricity would be a poor public policy decision as it would drive up the price of natural gas and electricity. In our cold climate, many Minnesotans heat their homes with electricity and higher prices would be a hardship on families, especially those on fixed incomes.

The president has previously stated that the United States needs an "all of the above" energy policy, which should include coal. Currently coal fuels about 40 percent of all the electricity produced in the United States and more in this region. Reducing coal in favor of intermittent sources such as wind and solar would make our electric grid less reliable and increase energy costs.

Climate change is an issue best left to Congress instead of the "command and control" regulations of the EPA. A comprehensive national energy policy should provide incentives for the development of clean coal technologies along with increased generation from other sources while protecting the consumers from price spikes and supply disruptions.

If the United States wants to truly be an energy leader, we can't walk away from coal. It's too important an energy source, both here and abroad. The clean coal technologies that are adopted in the United States can be outsourced to developing countries that are relying more and more on coal to improve their standard of living. There are leaders in both parties who will work with the president to develop such a plan and it is our hope he will turn to them instead of the bureaucrats at the EPA.

Steve Van Dyke

Vice President of Communications

Lignite Energy Council

Bismarck, N.D.