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Minnesota Legislature

Vetoed: Coal power exemption

Published (7/15/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont) that would have allowed up to 1,500 megawatts of coal-generated electricity to be imported into the state.

“Minnesota must continue on the path of progress to a sustainable, clean and safe energy future, rather than increasing our already heavy reliance upon coal-fired electricity, which threatens our health and climate,” Dayton wrote in his veto letter. He further made the case that there is no current need for additional baseload power due to the economic downturn.

As introduced, the proposed legislation would have repealed an existing ban on the construction of or purchases from new coal powered plants that contribute to statewide greenhouse gas emissions. The final bill would have simply allowed a 1,500-megawatt exemption to this prohibition, which would have enabled Great River Energy to purchase power from a new coal facility in North Dakota.

Earlier, GRE had requested an exemption from the Public Utilities Commission, as provided for in the existing law, to import electricity from the new Spiritwood coal plant near Jamestown, N.D., scheduled to open next year. GRE proposed to offset the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions with carbon reduction projects. But environmental groups objected on the grounds that some of the proposed offsets would have occurred anyway and should not count toward offsetting carbon emissions.

The commission decided it needed more evidence and referred the matter to the Office of Administrative Hearings. A recommendation by an administrative law judge is anticipated by Sept. 19, 2011. Public comments are due in July and a final PUC decision is expected by December 2011.

HF72/ SF86*/CH96

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