ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota legislators moved Tuesday to lift state restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from coal production that critics said has amounted to a moratorium on the construction of new coal plants.

Republican-controlled House and Senate committees passed matching bills to lift a state law passed just four years ago. The coal plant provision was one piece of a larger series of reforms meant to boost renewable energy production and clean up Minnesota’s environment, which passed with wide bipartisan support and was signed by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Under the current law, utilities can only build and operate new coal plants in Minnesota only if they can offset carbon emissions to a level that they don’t add to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Critics said the options for achieving that offset are so expensive and burdensome they amount to an effective moratorium on new plants.

Supporters of lifting the moratorium now say it was only in the package at the insistence of Democrats who then controlled the Legislature and that even Pawlenty had reservations but didn’t let them trump the entire reform package.

“We have a chance here to fix something that never should have been part of this law in the first place,” said Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, the chief House sponsor. Republicans took control of both houses of the Legislature last November.

Beard said the immediate impetus for lifting the moratorium is to allow Minnesota’s Great River Energy company to sell power generated at a new plant it’s building in North Dakota to Minnesota customers. The company is not allowed to do so under the provisions of the current law, and top state officials in North Dakota including Gov. Jack Dalrymple have urged Minnesota lawmakers to strike it down.

But Beard and fellow sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the larger concern is that alternative energy sources like wind, natural gas and solar power don’t have the potential to meet Minnesota’s energy needs.

“I’m not saying new coal plants are coming down the pipeline immediately, but we need to be prepared to keep Minnesota viable and a place to grow,” Rosen said.

Supporters of the moratorium said it’s in place to incentivize power companies to come up with cleaner ways of using coal. “If to them this is a moratorium, then what they’re saying is they can’t figure out how to do this responsibly,” said Molly Pederson, director of public affairs for Conservation Minnesota.

Margaret Levin, director of the Minnesota chapter of the Sierra Club, called coal power “a bad investment” that would not create jobs in Minnesota as the energy economy shifts to a greater and greater emphasis on renewable energy sources.

The House and Senate bills passed the House Commerce Committee and the Senate Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee with support from Republicans and Democrats, though several Democrats on both committees voted against lifting the moratorium.

Beard said the full House and Senate could vote on the bills in April; Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet indicated if he supports the current moratorium.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (31)
  1. fedgovruinseverything says:

    well,atleast someones awake here! there is cleaner burning technologies,albeit not perfect,but until we have something better COAL IS PLENTIFUL IN THE U.S.! and the Federal government is making it very difficult for coal energy on purpose these day!

    1. lvh says:

      Obama gave the EPA authority over this. In my state many jobs are on hold waiting for federal approval.. Federal being the EPA.

      1. titobundito says:

        People, pick up a newspaper. First, the Bush-appointed Supreme Court ruled that states can regulate CO2 as a harmful pollutant.
        Second, if coal is so plentiful, then why is the kilowatt/hour price of coal going up (40% since Jan 2010) while wind, solar are going down by half?
        If you want higher light bills, go ahead, build a coal plant. If you want to double your light bill, build a nuclear plant. Until some cheaper technology is available for those resources, those are not solutions yet

    2. fedgovruinseverything says:

      @tito…are you nuts? Coal is so abundant in the u.s. it cant ever be used up

  2. Victim Du Jour says:

    California puts up windmills and blames Enron when Neighboring States don’t keep up with the California energy demand.

    1. trip vulture says:

      Don’t you just love the sky line view ith all those beautiful windmills crowding out the sky…mmm and lets not forget that wonderful drive down I35 through Iowa and all those beautiful wind generators as well. Geez just what I want to see. A sky ful of wind generators. I wonder how many birds they kill every year?

      1. cubby72 says:

        I would rather see the windmills than smoke clouds blocking out the sun. Let aslone the acid rain that will fall! That’s why we got rid of the coal fired plants in the first place! Time to move I guess.

  3. helper says:

    Typical republicans… moving backward when we should be moving forward….

    What d-bags…

    1. trip vulture says:

      Helper: please go ride a bike and get off the road while you can. While your riding your bike you can generate some electricit for us smucks who would just like to have plentiful and efficent and above all c heap electricity, did I say reliable as. well.

  4. Great News says:

    Great we will produce acid rain which will destroy our forests, so we will not have to worry about those 3000 gray wolves anymore; plus it will releases large amounts of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, so I don’t have to worry about my future either.

    1. Matt says:

      Really, your still kicking down the global warming path? Come on…

      OK, lets play your game and assume that coal isn’t the right solution, then how do we produce more electricity?

      1. Rita says:

        Wind, Natural Gas, Nuclear, heck, even oil would be cleaner than coal. Coal is extremely dirty and the only reason why it is used is because it is cheap and abundant. I think it is time that we start thinking beyond the pocketbook for a moment. Did anyone realize that you get more radiation from coal than a nuclear power plant? Coal contains radium (radioactive). Look it up. Coal also contains mercury, which is a neurotoxin. Mercury is now present in nearly every lake, primarily because of coal burning. I’ve tested fish in Lake Superior with levels that are unreasonably high. I sampled water from some of the most pristine areas in northern Minnesota and guess what, mercury exists there. Granted, there are natural forms of mercury but methyl mercury does not exist normally in nature. So, please, if you want to debate whether we should use this energy because it is cheap, remember that the costs are hidden and unfortunately, those who do not do the research will never know what we all will pay for in the end.

      2. fedgovruinseverything says:

        coal shouldn’t be used as soon as they have enough of something else for the electrical grids,till then…leave it alone!

    2. cubby72 says:


  5. Darren Redman says:

    Really? another coal plant becaus its cheaper.
    Add in the price of cleaning up lakes from poisons – is it still cheaper now?
    This all seems like a ocean oill spill, that you plan in advance.
    Time to evolve is at hand. We need to start some solar power going like Germany. As far as wind generators being a eye sore, I think they are cool..

  6. Filbert says:

    Wind……yah it might be windy some days, but the over 50% of the turbines are down on any given day just for maintenance of bearings, etc. Can you imagine running up the stairs on those turbines? I wonder how many birds get chopped up? The best place for a wind turbine is the same place that rare birds hang out. Natural Gas…..Everyone has switched to it so it will be the next shortage. Natural Gas is a byproduct of Oil/Propane/Butane and is not Natural. The gas mixture is always in flux and so it is also difficult to measure true usuage. Nuclear can be cleaner, but it has its drawbacks if someone falls asleep and we have a meltdown and everyone forgets to take their salt tablet.. Oil is also a derivative of Crude Oil, as is Natural Gas and right now gas is over $ 100 per barrel. If it gets over $85 a barrell, the Oil Companies come out of the woodwork and start to spend money on investment.

    1. Rita says:

      Do you actually know anything about this topic?

      Natural gas is methane.

      You’re telling me that if someone falls asleep at a nuclear power plant, a meltdown will occur? Yikes, you have no idea how nuclear works.

      While, I will agree that there isn’t ONE option for power generation. I do believe coal is the WORST option and therefore, it should be reduced and eventually eliminated.

  7. James Robert says:


    Natural gas is NOT a byproduct of crude oil. Natural gas is methane and occurs naturally. Unlike oil, the USA has an abundant domestic supply of natural gas. Like coal and oil, however, natural gas is a fossil fuel, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the extraction of natural gas has enormous impact on both air and water quality.

    Minnesota already generates 9% of our electricity from wind and we’ve barely tapped the resource. Wind capacity can be added at minimal capital costs and with minimal upgrades to the power grid. Wind is cheap and can be brought online FAST. (The transmission upgrades that would have been required if Big Stone II had been built would have cost $450 million. A new nuclear power plant would require even greater improvements to the transmission grid.)

  8. James Robert says:

    Since the USA refuses to manager our greenhouse gas emissions, the rest of the world must take action. An immediate 100% tarriff should be applied to all US good and services exported to other countries. If the USA hasn’t reduced ghg emissions by 50% in ten years, then a total trade embargo should be enacted and enforeced.

    And yes, China and India should be held to EQUAL per capita ghg emissions.

  9. Eartha says:

    Nuclear. Only clean way to go.

  10. Deb says:

    Good grief, it’s a no brainer!! Coal is not a good solution, but there is always gonna be something bad about almost any source of energy!! So you have to try to do something to clean up what you can!! Just what do you would expect from republicans… talking down something they helped pass! Next they are gonna blame people that voted for a “rougue” republican for his or her actions, because YOU put them in office!!! After all they cannot take the blame when their ideas don’t work…. oh, then again they never seem to have any… they just spend their time saying “NO” and stealing from the middle class!

    1. Deb says:

      I’m sorry, I should have said help pass!

  11. Jamie says:

    Until you figure out how you can produce enough energy to power all those electric cars you want, coal will have to do. All the windmills, solar, etc cannot and never will produce enough. The ethenol plan was a bust and has only added to the problem while screwing up the food supply. You can’t just hope alternative energy works, you have to wait until it does.

  12. Wind wont blow says:

    If wind and solar are the answers for you..then put these devices at your house and disconnect yourself from the electric grid, and when the wind stops blowing at night, have candles ready. Don’t impose your ridiculous regulations on my electric bill. “Wind is cheap”..I’d like to know where you got that fact. Being in the industry I see the graphs that show the 15-25 year average payback on these devices which by the way, have approximately a 10 year service life, depending on the manufacture. AND how much does it cost to back a coal plant off when the wind picks up? Which Utilities have to do to meet the 20% by 2025 regulation. Coal plants are designed to run constant at full load and that is how we will get our best rate of return out of that plant. So again, if wind is your answer then put a wind turbine in your yard and disconnect yourself from the electric grid.

  13. Karen says:

    Without new coal while we develope alternatives the price of electricity will rise just like gas is because of the fed admin failure to drill new oil wells. We are a long way from replacing coal, oil, and natural gas. You just can’t hope alternatives will work. This administrations failure to address the energy situation realistically will eventually ruin our economy and like as we know it.

  14. Do Old MULTI-billionaires care? says:

    Lifting our laws to protect the USA citizen’s health, the environment from acid rain and carbon dioxide accelerating global warming seems desperately insane and self destructive. Instead USA citizens want to join the worldwide effort to create jobs in research, education, and training to apply new age energy technologies!

    1. Wind wont blow says:

      Is acid rain a problem in MN? Was it before the wind turbines that we have now? And speaking of new age technologies, lets use a new age mindset and realize that it’s climate change that we’re concerned about and not the monster…”global warming”

  15. Darren Redman says:

    Solar works welll and is easy to install, it you leave your existing electric line out of the factor. You can add as you can afford. The tax breaks can’t be beat also.
    Getting electric to my up north place in the forest was going to cost $8000.
    Then the line came closer $4000. Then when they finally came past my place and I could get power for $3000. I wouldn’t sign the easment that would cut down lots of trees and made them go around to the feild without trees.
    I spent $1500. on 2 small solar systems and installed myself.
    And I didn’t need them anymore. My electriciy there is free now.

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