Senator Heitkamp’s efforts to secure a strong future for coal

Building on years of advocating commonsense, all-of-the-above energy policies in North Dakota, Sen. Heitkamp has consistently brought together Republicans and Democrats to champion a realistic path forward for coal — and she’s worked across the aisle to make sure unworkable rules don’t harm North Dakota’s energy sector.

But Sen. Heitkamp believes that for coal to have a future, pushing back against unworkable rules isn’t enough — both parties also need to come together to invest in innovative technologies to lower emission and help coal remain viable. Over the last several years, Sen. Heitkamp has worked with members of both parties and groups across the political spectrum to build a coalition to do that, just as she did in successfully lifting the ban on exporting U.S. oil.

Sen. Heitkamp served as North Dakota’s tax commissioner, overseeing taxes on coal, coal gasification plants, electrical generation plants, and more.

Senator Heitkamp speaks with former-U.S. Senator Kent Conrad while serving as North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner.

As North Dakota attorney general, Sen. Heitkamp served on the state’s Industrial Commission, which manages coal exploration as well as research, development, and marketing for lignite coal.

For more than a decade, Sen. Heitkamp served on the board of directors of Dakota Gasification Company, which runs a one-of-a-kind Synfuels plant in Beulah, N.D.

Senator Heitkamp at Dakota Gasification in May 2016.

Then-U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy visited North Dakota at Sen. Heitkamp’s request. Sen. Heitkamp defended North Dakota’s coal industry and made the case for investments in clean coal technologies. Sen. Heitkamp brought McCarthy to Dakota Gasification to see the techniques used to make natural gas from coal and to transport CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.

Senator Heitkamp with then-U.S. EPA Administrator McCarthy at Dakota Gasification in February 2014.

Sen. Heitkamp organized and served as the keynote speaker at the Coal Technology Symposium, that brought together leading experts from government, industry, and academia, including the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), to lay out why it’s so important to find a path forward for coal.

Sen. Heitkamp announced new major legislation, the Advanced Clean Coal Technology Investment in Our Nation (ACCTION) Act, to support a viable path forward for coal. Her bill aimed to help make it affordable for coal plants to lower their carbon pollution through the use of advanced clean coal technologies.

At a U.S. Department of Energy meeting held in Bismarck at Sen. Heitkamp’s request, the senator joined then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz for a panel discussion and called on him to emulate North Dakota’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, including coal and carbon capture technology. Moniz held the meeting as part of a series across the country as the Energy Department was developing its Quadrennial Energy Review — a comprehensive energy strategy for the country.

Then-U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (left) and U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (right) speak at Quadrennial Energy Review in Bismarck in August 2014.

Sen. Heitkamp met with Julio Friedmann, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal at the Energy Department. Sen. Heitkamp used the meeting to discuss ways to promote a realistic path forward for coal in North Dakota and across the country — including through her ACCTION Act.

Sen. Heitkamp reintroduced her ACCTION Act to help encourage coal plants to lower their carbon pollution through the use of advanced clean coal technologies by making capital more accessible and ultimately the technology more affordable.

Alongside Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heitkamp introduced a package of bills to support the development of clean coal — including key pieces from Sen. Heitkamp’s ACCTION Act. Sen. Heitkamp’s provisions aimed to streamline rules governing clean coal energy and remove uncertainty inhibiting development of carbon emissions-reducing technologies.

Sen. Heitkamp and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pressed U.S. negotiators at the United Nations climate talks in Paris to include carbon capture and utilization in their agreement.

Sens. Heitkamp and Whitehouse introduced a bill to promote carbon capture technologies by extending and expanding the 45Q tax credit, which encourages investment in carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration.

The bill had support from progressive and conservative senators across the political spectrum, as well as a broad range of environmental and labor groups, and coal companies and utilities.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) backed the bill shortly after it was introduced. The bill also gained support after its introduction from Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Bob Casey (D-PA), and others across the political spectrum.

The Washington Post published a story (“There’s actually a way for Trump to help coal and still help the climate”) about Sen. Heitkamp’s bill to extend and expand the 45Q tax credit. Reporter Chris Mooney writes:

“It’s not hard to see Trump and his Republican allies in Congress supporting legislation like this,” adding that, “looking to the future, advancing CCS could actually make a difference for the climate and the industry.”

After being one of the first Democrats asked to meet with then President-elect Donald Trump, the Grand Forks Herald editorial speculated it was because of Sen. Heitkamp’s record of bipartisan proposals and steadfast work to get things done — pointing to her CCS bill has a proposal that could pass and set a bipartisan tone for the beginning of the new administration.

The Willison Herald covered Sen. Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill to extend and expand the 45Q tax credit, saying it’s “poised for a strong comeback” in 2017.

The New York Times interviewed Sen. Heitkamp about President Trump and her bill to extend and expand the 45Q tax credit to support coal:

“’What I saw with the president-elect was a laserlike focus on jobs,’ [Sen. Heitkamp] said. ‘I think he was intrigued’ about the economic opportunity that carbon capture could provide to keep coal power generation in the national mix, she added.”

The New York Times covered Sen. Heitkamp’s successful work bringing together coal companies and environmental groups in support of her bill.

Sen. Heitkamp led a diverse group of 15 Democratic senators — including more liberal and more conservative lawmakers — in urging congressional appropriators to fund strong U.S. Department of Energy investments in carbon capture, utilization, and storage technologies, programs which the president’s budget puts on the chopping block.

Sens. Heitkamp, Whitehouse, and Capito led a broad bipartisan group of fellow senators in reintroducing legislation to extend and expand the key 45Q tax credit to encourage technological innovation that reduces CO2 emissions and supports coal as a part of a diverse energy mix. The bill has a wide cross-section of support from Republicans and Democrats as well as coal companies, utilities, environmental groups, and labor organizations.

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp reintroducing her bipartisan bill that would extend and expand the 45Q tax credit with U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and John Barrasso (R-WY) in July 2017.