EPA “Smart Sectors” Meeting in Bismarck

On December 4th, Doug Benevento, the regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, visited Bismarck, ND seeking input on how the agency could improve regulations by learning more about the lignite industry under a new agency initiative.

The EPA’s “Smart Sectors” program is a national effort under the Trump Administration to collaborate with the regulated community to achieve better environmental outcomes. The roundtable was focused on improving relationships, enhancing communication, and identifying practical solutions to various environmental regulatory, permitting, and compliance challenges to achieve more effective and efficient environmental outcomes. In addition, the EPA sought information about best practices in our industry as they are looking for opportunities to recognize companies that are going beyond compliance.

Administrator Benevento shared his prior experience working on energy and environment issues for Xcel Energy and leading the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “That experience has taught me that the worst decisions regulators make is when they don’t understand the decisions they’re making,” Benevento said.

Representatives from North Dakota’s lignite industry said they would like to have certainty and clarity with regulations. Jason Bohrer, President and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council, said the EPA should consider the expertise of states when developing rules. For example, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan failed to consider the unique properties of lignite, Bohrer said.

LEC participants praised the EPA for holding the meeting and encouraged them to find a way to continue the practice with future administrations.