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Here’s something Congress can actually get done this year

By Staff | Dec 13, 2016

Destructive gridlock too often cripples Congress, and it frustrates me as much as anyone.

Congress shouldn’t be a place where good ideas with bipartisan support fail to move forward. If this election has taught us anything, it’s that Congress needs to get to work finding the kind of practical, bipartisan solutions that I’ve pushed for and that North Dakotans rightfully expect.

Earlier this year, I wrote a commonsense bill that most folks in North Dakota – and most folks in Congress – would agree with: The bill would put coal on a viable path forward by encouraging investment in technologies that drastically reduce emissions while making sure coal remains an affordable, reliable piece of our energy mix.

In North Dakota, we know coal. This resource powers our homes, and coal workers have helped build the all-of-the-above energy strategy our state has proudly implemented for decades. North Dakota gets almost 80 percent of its electricity from coal, and my bill provides the incentives we need to keep coal viable for years to come, while recognizing the need to reduce carbon emissions.

After introducing the bill in July, it quickly gained bipartisan support from a diverse group of lawmakers – spanning the ideological spectrum to include some of the most conservative and most liberal lawmakers. It also has broad backing from a growing list of coal companies, utilities, and environmental groups. Even Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a strong coal supporter who controls which bills get votes in the U.S. Senate, has come out in favor of the bill.

Since joining the U.S. Senate, I’ve worked hard to forge bipartisan consensus wherever I can, and especially on commonsense policies that benefit our state. That’s why I worked with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska last year to successfully lift the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

We spent months explaining the economics of lifting the ban to other lawmakers, showing them that it made no sense for a major oil producer like the U.S. to prevent its oil from seeking the best price in international markets. Then, in December 2015, Senator Murkowski and I forged a bipartisan deal to get the job done by coupling our effort to lift the ban on exporting oil with an extension of tax credits supporting wind and solar energy, further boosting North Dakota’s diverse energy sector.

Now, I’m hopeful Congress can come together like we did last year – this time, to pass my commonsense bill extending and expanding the 45Q tax credit to find a path forward for coal-fired generation and make sure that coal remains a key part of our energy mix for decades to come.

The 45Q provision in the tax code, which my bill uses as a starting point, is one of the most important tools for incentivizing carbon capture projects in coal-fired power plants and other industries. Our bill would provide tax credits to businesses that invest in technologies to limit emissions, capture carbon dioxide, and use that captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery or to create useable products. Carbon capture is the key to coal’s future – but it can’t take off unless there’s federal support to encourage investment and implementation of the technology through tax credits and other mechanisms.

With 20 Republicans and Democrats supporting my bill, there’s no good reason for Congress to sit on its hands and do nothing.

Partisan gridlock isn’t just frustrating – it can also quash ideas that I know would benefit our state. But if Congress works together in a bipartisan way as we have done on this bill, it should be able to reach real results that support North Dakota and the entire country. Now’s the time to get this bill across the finish line.

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