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Pollution settlement may encourage new plant construction

BISMARCK, N.D. - Minnkota Power Cooperative will install $135 million worth of anti-pollution equipment at its Milton Young electric power plant to settle a dispute with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, officials said. The EPA says the plant is one of the dirtiest in the upper Great Plains.

The proposed agreement makes it more likely that another power station, costing $1 billion and capable of generating 600 megawatts of electricity, will be built on the Milton Young plant site, industry and health officials said. Four utilities are exploring the project.

The Young plant, which is owned and operated by Minnkota and a subsidiary, Square Butte Electric Cooperative, is in Oliver County in western North Dakota's coal country, about five miles east of Center.

The new equipment will cut its pollution dramatically, making it easier to get the air quality permits needed to build another power station, said John Graves, Minnkota's environmental manager.

The Young plant, named for a former North Dakota U.S. senator, already has two generating units, which began operating in 1970 and 1977 and can generate about 700 megawatts of electricity.

Minnkota, based in Grand Forks, serves 11 electric distribution cooperatives, which supply electricity to eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

Graves said the new anti-pollution equipment should be installed by 2011.

Environmental groups, which have pressed the state and EPA to take action against Minnkota, were pleased with the tentative agreement.

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The proposed agreement makes it more likely that another power station, costing $1 billion and capable of generating 600 megawatts of electricity, will be built on the Milton Young plant site, industry and health officials said. Four utilities are exploring the project.
 
The Young plant, which is owned and operated by Minnkota and a subsidiary, Square Butte Electric Cooperative, is in Oliver County in western North Dakota's coal country, about five miles east of Center.
 
The new equipment will cut its pollution dramatically, making it easier to get the air quality permits needed to build another power station, said John Graves, Minnkota's environmental manager.
 
The Young plant, named for a former North Dakota U.S. senator, already has two generating units, which began operating in 1970 and 1977 and can generate about 700 megawatts of electricity.
 
Minnkota, based in Grand Forks, serves 11 electric distribution cooperatives, which supply electricity to eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.
 
Graves said the new anti-pollution equipment should be installed by 2011.
 
Environmental groups, which have pressed the state and EPA to take action against Minnkota, were pleased with the tentative agreement.
 
"Here is a perfect example of why we need to make sure that federal laws intended to make the older, dirty ... power plants clean up are not weakened," said Mary Mitchell, energy coordinator for the Dakota Resource Council, a Dickinson-based environmental and landowner group.
 
The U.S. Justice Department said the agreement between the EPA and Minnkota will be subject to public comment for 30 days, with a copy posted on the Justice Department's Web site.
 
An EPA statement said the new anti-pollution equipment should reduce Milton Young's sulfur dioxide pollution by about 23,600 tons annually, and nitrogen oxide pollution by about 9,400 tons.
 
Under the proposed settlement, Minnkota also has agreed to spend $5 million on wind turbines and other renewable energy projects.
 
Terry O'Clair, director of the North Dakota Health Department's air quality division, said the Young plant's oldest unit does not have equipment to control sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides. The second unit has sulfur dioxide controls, but nothing for nitrogen oxide.
 
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can cause asthma and respiratory problems. Last year, the EPA said, the Milton Young station was the nation's second-largest source of nitrogen oxide pollution per megawatt hour of power produced.
 
Under the agreement, both units will have scrubbers installed to cut their sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent and equipment to reduce nitrogen oxides by at least 40 percent. Later, the state Health Department will determine the proper technology to cut nitrogen oxide pollution further, the agreement says.
 
North Dakota already meets national ambient air quality standards, O'Clair said.
 
"We don't show any pollutants that are of a high enough level to injure people, but ... a reduction - we'll take it," O'Clair said. "We're already a clean state, but with this, we're even getting cleaner."
 
The dispute was about whether Minnkota's replacement of boiler tubes at the two Milton Young stations, which was done in 1995 and 1997, triggered a federal requirement that the cooperative install the best available pollution control technology.
 
The EPA issued a notice to Minnkota in June 2002, saying it was violating federal clean-air laws. Settlement negotiations followed.
 
Minnkota officials argued the tube replacement was routine maintenance and did not require the company to install new anti-pollution equipment.
 
"We don't believe that we violated the law," Graves said. "However, it was, we feel, a prudent decision to resolve the matter and move on."
 
 


Source: http://www.twincities.com/...

APR 24 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2293-pollution-settlement-may-encourage-new-plant-construction
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