Big Stone II

September 8th, 2006


In today’s Bismarck Tribune:

Nothing (opposition is doing) will stop Big Stone II

By Carol Overland
Red Wing, Minn.

Iâ??ve just returned from Bismarck and a tour of Coal Creek and Falkirk Mine, and letâ??s be honest â?? Iâ??m no fan of coal. Iâ??m a utility regulatory attorney, representing landowner intervenors facing utility infrastructure in their communites and their own yards.

The recent letter (â??Big Stone plans not irresponsible,â? Aug. 29) by Bruce Imsdahl, of Montana-Dakota Utilities, was needlessly defensive. Both he and Beth Goodpaster (â??Big Stone II needs a better plan,â? Aug. 22) miss important aspects of Big Stone II.

The Big Stone II coal plant has a South Dakota permit. Goodpasterâ??s team presented their CO2 case, but under South Dakota law, that wonâ??t stop the plant. For the commissionâ??s decision, Commissioner Hanson participated by phone, because he was on a European coal gasification junket sponsored by the Great Plains Institute, which is funded in part by intervenors ME3, the Izaak Walton League and the Joyce Foundation. Inexplicably, Commissioner Sahr recused himself from the later reconsideration decision. Therefore, it seems two of three commissioners may have issues that precluded voting on Big Stone.

The â??environmentalâ? intervenorsâ?? CO2 case speculated about market impacts of CO2 regulation, yet didnâ??t introduce evidence regarding the Chicago Climate Exchange emissions market. This market started in 2003, with CO2 at less than a dollar, and has risen to a present value of over $4. Itâ??s an active market developed by the Joyce Foundation, funder of the environmental intervention and funder of a nationwide effort to regulate CO2. Yes, the same party funding creation of the CO2 market is also funding GPI, which sponsors the Coal Gasification Work Group and coal gasification junkets, and is also funding intervenors and expert witnesses who donâ??t address the funderâ??s existing CO2 market. The skids are greased for Big Stone II, generation of more CO2 and expansion of the CO2 market and profits.

BSII is facilitated by transmission lines to be built under Minnesotaâ??s new laws. Imsdahl and Goodpaster may both find a 60 percent construction cost increase, coal and transport cost increase, global warming and mercury-laden fish worrisome, causing uncertainty, but the permit has been issued. Itâ??s up to Minnesota now â?? Minnesota transmission and Minnesota rates and Minnesota fish and Minnesota health impacts, and whatâ??s to stop it?

But North Dakota coal interestsâ?? focus on Big Stone II is misplaced â?? Excelsiorâ??s Mesaba coal gasification project in northern Minnesota is the more important canary for North Dakota coal, because if it goes forward, Xcel wonâ??t want a new coal plant for a long time

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