Strategically Opposing New Coal
With each new coal-fired power plant that is built, there is a decades-long commitment to massive global warming emissions and the release of large quantities of pollutants that harm human health. We have been working to transition coal-based power generation in the Upper Midwest to electricity that relies more on clean, renewable sources, such as wind. One way we’re achieving this is by stopping the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the Upper Midwest.
We achieved a significant milestone in our efforts when a proposal to construct a new coal-fired power plant in South Dakota was scrapped by its utility partners in November 2009. Big Stone II became the latest in a series of power plant proposals that have died under the weight of escalating costs and concern over climate change.
For more than four years, the IWLA and its allies actively opposed the construction of Big Stone II in South Dakota and the associated transmission lines into Minnesota. In our cases before state regulators, we focused on the massive carbon pollution impacts of Big Stone II and we emphasized the environmental and economic risks that would result if the plant were built. Our analysis demonstrated that the alternatives to Big Stone II would be not only far better for the environment, but actually cheaper for ratepayers. These cleaner, less expensive alternatives take advantage of world-class wind resources in South Dakota and create more jobs than what the coal plant was projected to produce.
Despite the growing ranks of states that have turned away from the high costs of and global-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, regulators in South Dakota and Minnesota approved construction of the power plant and its transmission lines in 2007 and 2009. It was the utility companies themselves that halted the project due to concerns over rising construction costs, declining power demand, and pending regulations for greenhouse gas emissions. The IWLA advanced the position throughout the four years of proceedings that coal-fired power plants are risky investments. This reality finally prevailed among the Big Stone II utility partners.
Stopping Big Stone II is a great victory for utility customers and the environment. Across the region, there is now even greater incentive for utilities to tap into the cheaper, cleaner sources of power that exist in abundance throughout the Midwest.
- Press Release of the Izaak Walton League and partners in response to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission decision, January 15, 2009
- Press Release of the Izaak Walton League and partners, October 22, 2008
- Boston Pacific Company, Inc., report to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission "Responding to Commission Inquiries on Emissions Costs, Construction Costs and Fuel Costs"
- Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) "Gambling with Coal" report