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Environmentalists push wind over coal

Environmentalists from South Dakota and Minnesota hope to persuade decision makers to opt for wind energy over coal as they consider a new generating plant in northeast South Dakota.

Opponents of the proposed $1 billion Big Stone II coal plant near Milbank have filed testimony in advance of a Public Utilities Commission hearing that starts June 26 in Pierre.

The coalition against the project wants the PUC to deny the permit on grounds the plant will release mercury and carbon dioxide pollution and there is a cleaner, more economical alternative.

"The question becomes whether, in assessing the economics of a plant, they should be required to assess the effect of greenhouse gas emissions," said John Davidson, a University of South Dakota law professor and environmental advocate.

If commissioners were to consider the environment, they would find the plant uneconomical, he said.

Montana-Dakota Utilities, based in Bismarck, N.D., Otter Tail Power Co., of Fergus Falls, Minn., and NorthWestern Energy, of Sioux Falls, are partners in the existing Big Stone power plant.

Mark Rolfes of Otter Tail, the project manager for Big Stone II, said the alternative of using wind power and natural gas is impractical.

"This unit is being proposed for base load generation, which means it needs to be there all of the time, or as close to that as possible," Rolfes said. The wind obviously cannot be adjusted to meet customer... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Opponents of the proposed $1 billion Big Stone II coal plant near Milbank have filed testimony in advance of a Public Utilities Commission hearing that starts June 26 in Pierre.
 
The coalition against the project wants the PUC to deny the permit on grounds the plant will release mercury and carbon dioxide pollution and there is a cleaner, more economical alternative.
 
"The question becomes whether, in assessing the economics of a plant, they should be required to assess the effect of greenhouse gas emissions," said John Davidson, a University of South Dakota law professor and environmental advocate.
 
If commissioners were to consider the environment, they would find the plant uneconomical, he said.
 
Montana-Dakota Utilities, based in Bismarck, N.D., Otter Tail Power Co., of Fergus Falls, Minn., and NorthWestern Energy, of Sioux Falls, are partners in the existing Big Stone power plant.
 
Mark Rolfes of Otter Tail, the project manager for Big Stone II, said the alternative of using wind power and natural gas is impractical.
 
"This unit is being proposed for base load generation, which means it needs to be there all of the time, or as close to that as possible," Rolfes said. The wind obviously cannot be adjusted to meet customer demand.
 
Rolfes has said the project will include a pollution control system large enough to clean emissions for the current Big Stone I plant and the new plant that will allow both to meet or exceed federal and state emissions requirements.
 
The PUC must make a decision by July 14. It has not considered a major power plant since Big Stone I, which was completed in 1975, and it is not clear how much discretion it has to reject the permit.
 
Under state law, approval requires commissioners to find that "the facility will not pose a threat of serious injury to the environment" and "will not unduly influence the orderly development of the region."
 
Bob Sahr, one of three commissioners, said their discretion is somewhat broad but not complete.
 
"One component is going to be environmental effects, but we also have to look out for the consumers and making sure we have low-cost power," he said. "We're going to come in with an open mind and go in and make the best decision we can."
 
Big Stone II is scheduled to be done in 2011. It would be the largest private and public construction initiative ever launched in South Dakota.


Source: http://www.kfmb.com/stories...

JUN 3 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2923-environmentalists-push-wind-over-coal
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