Otter Tail customers will pay for pollution controls

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2013 - 9:21 PM
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A construction worker walks across the hardened concrete foundation poured recently for a $405 million air pollution control upgrade at the coal-fired Big Stone power plant in South Dakota just across the border from Ortonville, Minn. The plant, owned by Otter Tail Power Co. of Fergus Falls, Minn., and two South Dakota utilities, is one of many coal-burning power plants across the United States that require expensive retrofits to reduce mercury and other emissions. But the new smokestack controls won’t reduce greenhouse gases, leaving utilities with uncertainty about how future federal greenhouse gas regulations for existing coal power plants will affect these investments. The Big Stone project, begun earlier this year, now employs 225 workers and is costing the plant owners half a million dollars a day. The workforce will more than double before the project is finished in 2015. Photo: David Shaffer, Star Tribune

The price of pollution control is coming home to boost rates for an electric utility serving western Minnesota.

To help pay for $405 million in environmental controls on the coal-fired Big Stone Power plant in South Dakota, Otter Tail Power Co. of Fergus Falls will raise rates nearly 4 percent Jan. 1 for its 60,600 Minnesota customers.

For a typical residential customer, the increase will amount to $2.77 per month.

The increase was approved Thursday by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission as an add-on to bills.

Otter Tail operates in neighboring states, and co-owns the plant with two other utilities, so the upgrade cost will be spread around, also affecting customers in North Dakota and South Dakota.

The project is scheduled to be completed next year.

DAVID SHAFFER

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  • 3CARBON -- The largest of several cranes towers over the site of a $405 million pollution-control project at the coal-fired Big Stone power plant in South Dakota, just across the border from Ortonville, Minn. It is one of dozens of Midwest coal burners that face the need to add pollution controls for emissions like mercury and nitrogen oxides. But the technology can do nothing to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming. Coal power plants are a leading source of carbon dioxide, but regulations for existing plants haven‚Äôt been developed yet by the U.S. Environmental Protection...

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