Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published May 11 2011
Minn. bill opens door to purchase electricity from N.D. coal plantsST. PAUL - No coal-fired power plants could be built in Minnesota, but electric cooperatives could buy from coal plants in other states under a bill Minnesota representatives approved 76-54 Wednesday.
It is a watered down version of a bill senators passed earlier this year that would lift an existing prohibition against any new electricity produced by coal.
Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, said he changed the bill in an attempt to satisfy some of Gov. Mark Dayton’s concerns. As a byproduct to allowing Minnesota to buy coal-produced electricity from other states, North Dakota might drop plans to sue Minnesota.
North Dakota officials have plans to sue Minnesota, claiming the coal-power restriction violates the U.S. Constitution’s provision requiring free trade among states.
A Jamestown, N.D.-area coal-fired power plant soon is expected to be ready. It would use North Dakota lignite coal to make electricity mostly for Minnesota.
Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, said lignite is the dirtiest coal available. Beard countered that North Dakota has found ways to cleanly burn lignite.
Hilty said that even without Beard’s bill, new coal-produced electricity could be used if there was enough need for electricity.
Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, told fellow lawmakers that he received a letter from former Vice President Al Gore opposing the Beard bill.
“It would be a mistake for Minnesota to reverse course and increase its reliance on coal power for electricity,” Gore wrote.
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, argued that a main reason to oppose the current coal-produced electricity ban is that “we are sick and tired of the government controlling us.”