North Dakota's two U.S. senators expressed hope Monday that the federal Environmental Protection Agency would change its mind and adopt a state Health Department proposal for reducing haze pollution from two power plants.
The agencies cannot agree on the best way for reducing haze, and a proposed EPA rule would trump state air quality regulations and require the Milton R. Young and Leland Olds electric power plants to use a pollution-control technology the Health Department believes is too expensive and may not work.
At an energy conference Monday at Bismarck State College, Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad said North Dakota officials have pressed the EPA to adopt the Health Department's suggested solution. In the past two weeks, Conrad said, he has become more confident the state's plan may be accepted.
"I think things have gone quite well in terms of heading towards a reasonable resolution," Conrad said.
Republican Sen. John Hoeven and GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple agreed.
"I think they're learning that we're right," Dalrymple said of federal regulators. "We think that, really, it's an insult to say to our people in our Department of Health, `You are not capable of regulating your state.'"
An EPA spokeswoman could not provide comment Monday about the North Dakota officials' statements. The agency held a public hearing last month in Bismarck on its proposed rule and is taking public comments about it for another week.
The state's proposal would require improved scrubbers on the Leland Olds and Milton R. Young plants to remove more sulfur dioxide and other acidic gases.
It advocates installing a pollution-control process that would spray ammonia into the plants' exhaust, which would convert some of its nitrogen oxides emissions into water and non-polluting gas.
The EPA wants to use a more sophisticated, and costlier, method of treating the plants' exhaust that would run it through a catalyst filter to remove more nitrogen oxides. North Dakota officials say the catalytic process may not work on the lignite coal the power plants use for fuel.
The federal rules are intended to cut down regional pollution haze and improve visibility in some of North Dakota's most environmentally sensitive areas, including the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Lostwood National Wildlife Refuge in western North Dakota.
North Dakota health officials say the EPA's preferred rule would not make a visible difference in haze pollution.