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Proposed Big Stone Two Power Plant Comes "Down to the Wire" Today

December 5, 2006

Watertown, SD - A proposed coal-fired South Dakota power plant faces a big hurdle in neighboring Minnesota today, as plans for a power line across the border come before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Environmental and scientific groups say the Commission should reject the plan, because utilities haven't proven the need for increased power.

The hearings begin today on the controversial plan to connect Minnesota to the proposed Big Stone Two power plant. Jim Madsen from Watertown is with the Izaak Walton League of America; he worries the plant would produce large amounts of the greenhouses gases linked to global warming.

"The carbon dioxide increase, which is estimated to be 4.5 million tons, is 34 percent over what South Dakota currently produces. It'll increase global warming more than all the cars in the state, and it represents the largest new source of carbon dioxide built to serve Minnesota customers since the 1980s."

He adds that mercury emissions are another major concern.

"Scientists are questioning if mercury isn't part of the cause for the dramatic increase we're seeing in children with autism. We know that technology exists to remove most of it, but we can't count on Congress to do its job and enact strong mercury control legislation. So, should we be building a plant that sends hundreds of pounds of mercury downwind annually to Minnesota?"

Proponents of the new plant say it would help avoid an energy shortfall and meet increasing demands for power. However, Madsen says the economic and environmental risks of coal-fired plants are too high, especially when other alternatives like wind power are available.

"We think to move forward simply because of a dollar bill is the wrong way to move."

Madsen's group has joined with Fresh Energy, the Center for Environmental Advocacy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and wind energy proponents Wind on the Wires to oppose the application.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD