BISMARCK, N.D. - U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today spoke with coal industry and utility leaders at the Lignite Energy Council's annual meeting, detailing her work building bipartisan support for a path forward for coal through smart investments in carbon capture technology.
Heitkamp has long fought to support an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes fossil fuels like coal. Recognizing Heitkamp's work supporting a continued role for coal in our energy mix, the president invited her to the White House in February for the signing ceremony of a bill she helped introduce and pass undoing an Interior Department rule issued during the previous administration that would have harmed North Dakota's lignite coal industry.
Heitkamp has also worked to secure a future for coal through legislation. Last year, Heitkamp introduced a bill with broad bipartisan support to extend a key tax credit that incentivizes the development and use of carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies and processes. She introduced the bill with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and later that year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supported it, as did progressive and conservative senators across the political spectrum-as well as a broad range of coal companies and environmental groups, reinforcing the unlikely coalitions Heitkamp has been able to build.
'It's not enough to just reverse wrong-headed policies that threaten the viability of coal-fired power,' said Heitkamp. 'For coal to remain part of our diverse energy mix in the future, Congress needs to help lead the way by encouraging investment in carbon capture technology-as my bipartisan bill to extend and expand a key tax credit would do. The administration and both parties should come together on this and other commonsense policies that make sure utilities, coal companies, and coal workers have long-term certainty. Our lignite coal industry creates good-paying jobs in North Dakota and helps keep the lights on. To make sure our coal and utility workers can continue to do that for years to come, and we need bipartisan support for policies to advance the technologies the industry needs to thrive.'
Heitkamp's bill would promote carbon capture technologies by extending the 45Q tax credit, which encourages investment in carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration. Using that tax credit as a starting point, the bill also provides a more robust and expansive credit system to encourage innovation. The credits also encourage the use of CO2 in enhanced oil recovery and beyond. In addition to extending 45Q, the bill makes support for carbon capture technologies more robust by increasing the 'commence construction' window for carbon capture projects from five to seven years and by increasing the number of years to claim the credits from 10 to 12 years. She will soon reintroduce the bill this Congress.
Coal generates one-third of the country's electricity and 80 percent of North Dakota's. Coal supports 13,000 jobs in North Dakota, and mining has an economic impact of $3.5 billion.
Heitkamp's work to find a realistic path forward for coal builds on her more than a decade of experience on the board of directors of Dakota Gasification, the one-of-a-kind synfuels plant in Beulah, N.D. During her service as North Dakota's Tax Commissioner, on the North Dakota Industrial Commission, and as the state's Attorney General, Heitkamp was able to work on viable solutions to make sure coal remains a strong part of the North Dakota's energy mix.
Since joining the Senate, Heitkamp has worked to finding a realistic path for clean coal by:
Introducing major legislation in 2013 and 2015 to put coal on a viable path forward. Heitkamp's bill would incentivize companies to invest in technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of coal-fired power. This is done through federal funding programs, federal support for private investment, and recommendations to Congress that provide insight on how best to support future CCS projects in the U.S. In May 2015, Heitkamp and Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia introduced a series of bills to make sure coal remains part of America's energy mix, incorporating Heitkamp's bill.
Convening industry, lawmakers, and academics to discuss path forward on coal. Heitkamp co-hosted a Coal Technology Symposium on Capitol Hill in 2014 that brought together industry, lawmakers, experts and academics - including the Energy and Environmental Research Center from Grand Forks. To a crowded room, Heitkamp laid out the importance of advancing realistic energy policies and discussed the vital role coal plays in providing affordable energy in North Dakota and around the country.