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Weekly Column: Reliable, Affordable Energy

Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants. Self-titled the “Clean Power Plan,” the rule would require power plants across the country to comply with costly new rules and regulations that would reduce energy production and raise electricity rates – with little environmental benefit. South Dakotans could see their electricity rates double due to the Clean Power Plan. For those of us who oppose higher taxes and believe in a comprehensive “North American” energy policy, stopping the Clean Power Plan is an important first step.

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over EPA, I recently joined my colleagues in introducing bipartisan legislation to roll back the President’s Clean Power Plan. The Affordable Reliable Energy Now Act (ARENA) would make certain consumers have reliable and affordable access to energy, put jobs and our economy first and curb federal overreach. It would protect ratepayers from rate increases and prevent EPA from enforcing overly burdensome regulations on American consumers. It would also force EPA to submit a report to Congress describing the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions the Clean Power Plan is expected to reduce, as well as show the science used to develop the rule.

Most importantly, ARENA would give states more flexibility if the Clean Power Plan is enacted by allowing them more time to comply with the regulations. It would also force EPA to issue state-specific model plans demonstrating how each state could meet the required emissions reductions under the rule. State highway funds would also be protected in our bill by preventing EPA from withholding the highway funds from any states who are in noncompliance.

In South Dakota, the Clean Power Plan threatens the existence of the only coal-fired power plant in South Dakota at Big Stone, which is already in the midst of a $400 million compliance upgrade. If the proposal is enacted, Big Stone would only be allowed to operate at an annual capacity factor of just 23 percent, which is both uneconomical and practically impossible. This would essentially shut down the plant, all while it’s in the middle of a major, expensive upgrade to comply with a different set of EPA regulations.

Not only does this threaten the nearly 100 jobs at Big Stone, but it would increase energy costs for South Dakotans and reduce energy reliability.  The hundreds of millions of dollars currently being invested to comply with EPA rules would be a stranded investment.


Americans must continue to have access to reliable, affordable energy. People deserve to know that their homes will be heated in South Dakota’s freezing cold winters, and that their lights will turn on when they flip the switch. The ARENA legislation would help provide peace of mind for ratepayers. It would provide reliable energy to power South Dakota’s agricultural and manufacturing industries. It also goes one step further in limiting the number of burdensome, unnecessary regulations imposed not by lawmakers, but by unelected bureaucrats at the EPA. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated his interest in bringing ARENA to the Senate floor for consideration. I look forward to having that debate.