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Lift of coal moratorium sought

Published (1/28/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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Testimony is scheduled to continue Feb. 1 on a bill to repeal a portion of the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 regarding carbon dioxide emissions.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee), HF72 would remove a ban on new coal-generating plants of 50 megawatts or more. It would also allow utilities to import electricity from coal plants outside the state, such as the Great River Energy plant in Spiritwood, N.D.

The act limits new electricity from coal in order to control carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to contribute to climate change. The law allows for exceptions to the moratorium, such as if the Public Utilities Commission deems a project essential to the long-term reliability of the state’s electrical grid.

The House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee heard testimony Jan. 27, but took no action.

Beard called the ban of importing energy fueled by coal “ill-advised,” adding, “This bill will liberate and empower (people) with a robust and reliable supply of what we call the master resource, that would be affordable and abundant electrical energy so we can live our lives healthy, prosperous and free.”

But members, environmental organizations and student groups said allowing coal-fueled energy would result in increased pollution and higher energy costs.

Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) said the increased pollution could lead to more health-related problems and increased health care costs. To counteract emissions entering Minnesota from North Dakota, Minnesota businesses would have to agree to lower their emissions in order to meet federal emission standards, she added.

A representative of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and Bill Glahn, former director of the Office of Energy Security, spoke in favor of the bill.

Glahn said the fact that utilities are not applying for nuclear or coal power plants may be more indicative of the moratoriums rather than the counter argument that those fuel sources are not in demand.

A companion bill, SF86, sponsored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee.

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