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EPA rejects Coal Creek's new 'liner,' could lead to a three year shutdown of the plant

Rainbow Energy
Coal Creek Station

A proposed decision by the federal Environmental Protection Agency could mean Rainbow Energy’s Coal Creek Station would have to shut down for three years.

The issue is an alternate liner demonstration project, for deposit of coal ash. North Dakota’s Department of Environmental Quality okayed that project. But the EPA is proposing a denial of that project – meaning an existing facility would have to be rebuilt – and that would take the plant offline for an estimated three years.

North Dakota Transmission Authority director John Weeda told the state Industrial Commission Coal Creek supplies 8 million megawatt hours of electricity per year, to Minnesota and to the Midwest power grid.

"There's concern the EPA position on this may interrupt the supply of reliable power," Weeda said. "The Coal Creek Station has been depended-on, through thick and thin, and has an almost untarnished reputation of being there for the power grid."

Gov. Doug Burgum chairs the Industrial Commission. He said North Dakota’s DEQ determined the new liner is safe, after it conducted a series of tests.

"They're doing all the things that you would want to do, and all the things the EPA had asked them to do," Burgum said. "This is clearly moving the goal posts after the game has started."

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring is a member of the Industrial Commission. He called the EPA’s proposed decision an “all out attack.”

"No real thought going into what the communities, the state, the region, and how it impacts people's lives," Goehring said. "We're going to have to dog this one, and not let them (EPA) off the hook. It's preposterous."

EPA has opened a public comment period on its proposed denial. The Industrial Commission is drafting its response.

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