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Minnesota PUC Decision Coming "Down the Line" on Big Stone II

June 2, 2008

St. Paul, MN – The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is considering whether or not to "hold the line" for the proposed Big Stone Two power plant in northeast South Dakota. The PUC will hear oral arguments Tuesday on the findings of two Minnesota judges who ruled that power lines from the new plant should not be built across west-central Minnesota.

Attorney Beth Goodpaster with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy wants the commission to accept the judges' ruling, which was based on a recommendation by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. She says the power companies have failed to show that another coal plant makes more sense than renewable energy or increased efficiency when it comes to meeting the demand for electricity.

"This type of coal that has been proposed at Big Stone is what is called conventional coal. It's not capable of capturing its carbon dioxide emissions. From that perspective this case is about the end of that technology. And, so, by building a power plant like this right now, you're taking extreme risks about the costs to run the power plant. We think that this is the worst time to make a new investment in coal."

Proponents argue that the new power plant is needed soon to meet growing demand and that wind power projects also need the transmission capability to move their power east. Goodpaster agrees that transmission upgrades are needed, but says they don't have to connect to Big Stone II.

"We want to provide other transmission opportunities for the great amount of wind power that we do need to meet renewable energy standards in Minnesota, including some other lines that have been proposed to go from Brookings, S.D. to the Twin Cities. We're supporting those transmission lines."

The judges in the case also ruled that, with new regulations coming, the power companies did not adequately consider the costs of global warming pollution. The rulings will be reviewed by the PUC, which can then reject or modify them. The commission's final decision is expected Thursday, June 5.

David Law/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - SD