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Associated Press, Published December 05 2012

Clean air suit targets largest Minn. power plant

MINNEAPOLIS — Clean air advocates sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, seeking an order to require the EPA to mandate that Xcel Energy install the best available technology to reduce emissions at Minnesota's biggest power plant.

The six groups that filed the lawsuit said pollution from the coal-fired Sherco plant near Becker is unhealthy for people and is a major contributor to haze that obscures the views at Voyageurs and Isle Royale national parks and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. They said a haze-cutting plan that state regulators submitted to the EPA is deficient because it doesn't require Xcel to install technology used at similar plants elsewhere that would most effectively cut Sherco's emissions.

So the lawsuit asks the federal court to order the EPA to mandate that Xcel use what's known as "best available retrofit technology" at Sherco. It says the EPA is obligated to do so under federal law.

"We hope this action will spur the EPA to force the Sherco facility to meet modern air quality standards and to stop compromising people's health and the ecosystems of our national treasures," said Kevin Reuther, legal director of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Frank Prager, Xcel's vice president of environmental policy and services, said the company had not had the chance to review the lawsuit and could not comment on it directly. But he added that Xcel is investing $50 million in improvements at Sherco that will cut sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by about half, which he said will be adequate.

An EPA spokeswoman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.