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Minnesota PUC to Rule on Big Stone II Transmission Line Permits

January 13, 2009

St. Paul, MN - A controversional decision pits "old" energy against "new" today (Tuesday) as the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission hears final arguments over the Big Stone II transmission line permits. At stake is whether to allow new power lines to stretch into Minnesota from the proposed Big Stone II power plant, on the South Dakota side of Big Stone Lake.

Conservation groups, including the Izaack Walton League of America, oppose the project. League spokesman Bill Grant says the utilities have significantly underestimated the price of a new coal-fired power plant, and overestimated the costs of such alternative power sources as wind. He's convinced utility customers will pay more in the long run, because they'll have to bankroll the plant's pollution control expenses.

"Our concerns all along have been that customers of the power companies that want to build this project are really being asked to shoulder the future costs of controlling carbon dioxide emission from the project, when better and cheaper alternatives clearly exist, right in their backyard."

Proponents say the plant will bring economic benefits to the region, and that air pollution won't increase because of new controls. Grant disagrees, however, citing real concerns about the impact of coal plant emissions on the area's environment and wildlife.

"Our members are sportsmen, and are very concerned about the impact to upland game birds, cold water fish species, and large game animals, like deer and moose. Those concerns are well documented. Beyond that, we have concerns about fresh water supplies, clean air and the other pollutants that are associated with burning coal to produce electricity."

After a six-month delay and two years of hearings, the Minnesota PUC's ruling is expected this week.

David Law, Public News Service - SD