Otter Tail Power Co. is nearly finished and under budget with its $384 million pollution-control upgrade of the coal-burning Big Stone power plant in South Dakota that it co-owns with two other utilities, the Fergus Falls-based electric utility said last week.
The number of on-site construction workers declined from 650 to 175 in the second quarter, when the large generator just across the Minnesota-South Dakota border was shut down for the final stage of work.
The plant, which supplies 36 percent of Otter Tail customers’ power, is expected to be back online in August, after the repair of recently discovered cracks in turbine blades, the utility told Minnesota regulators.
The plant will go back online with state-of-the-art pollution controls, but will still emit carbon dioxide.
The utility last November told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that its Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gases, if finalized as proposed, “would likely force retirement” of the plant.
The final rules are expected this summer. - David Shaffer
Food, art scenes raise W. Broadway’s profile
Breaking Bread Café near Fremont Avenue N. on upticking W. Broadway is adding weekend hours, starting with Saturday breakfast and lunch in connection with this week’s FLOW Northside Arts Crawl. The 10th annual event runs Thursday through Saturday, including previews, gallery receptions, public performances, and indoor and outdoor activities along W. Broadway from the Mississippi River to Penn Avenue.
More than 100 artists and 10,000 attendees are expected for the arts crawl (www.northmpls.org/flow2015).
Breaking Bread, a social enterprise of the nonprofit Appetite for Change, opened its 110-seat, 12-employee restaurant last spring. It dovetails with the W. Broadway revival around art, good food, health services and retail, and amid construction of several area residential developments.
“We call it globally inspired comfort food,” said executive chef Lachelle Cunningham, who will start Sunday service Aug. 2. “Our slogan is ‘real food for real people, made from scratch.’ We create jobs, and promote local artists with their work on our walls, in a space that also is a community meeting place. We buy local produce and, through Appetite for Change, we have our own gardens and work with other local growers on their gardens. We purchase some of our produce from the West Broadway Farmers Market. And we sell produce in the cafe.”
Breaking Bread is a big retail outlet for North Side community gardens, some of which employ local kids.
“We’re not turning a profit yet, but we’re on track with where we are supposed to be,” Cunningham said. “We have a lunch rush, and sometimes there are lines to get in. It’s time to expand to weekends.”
For reasonable prices, diners can enjoy specialties such as beer-battered fried tilapia, grilled corn, black bean and avocado salad, Caribbean coleslaw, and all-day breakfasts such as the Big Bad Northsider, build-your-own eggs Benedict and breakfast salads.
There’s still room (at $50 apiece) for Friday night’s FLOW Pop Up Dinner Party at Breaking Bread, featuring visual and culinary artists.
Minnesota gets boost in North Dakota coal case
Minnesota just got fresh ammunition in its legal war with North Dakota over banning new cross-state sales of electricity from coal-burning power plants.
North Dakota coal and utility interests won a huge victory last year when a federal district judge struck down a 2007 Minnesota law, saying its restrictions on out-of-state utilities violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Minnesota appealed to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
With that appeal pending, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday rejected another Commerce Clause “extraterritoriality” argument, finding that Colorado’s renewable energy mandate doesn’t illegally harm out-of-state coal interests. The clause aims to protect interstate commerce against state protectionism.
While circuit courts aren’t bound by each other’s rulings and the cases are not identical, the 10th Circuit’s narrow view of the Commerce Clause is sure to be raised in Minnesota’s appeal, said Ari Peskoe, energy fellow at Harvard Law School’s Environmental Policy Initiative, which tracks energy litigation.
“If the 8th Circuit adopted a similar view of extraterritoriality, then Minnesota would come out ahead,” Peskoe said. - David Shaffer
State is 17th in private equity investment
Minnesota attracted $7.2 billion in private equity investment in 2014, making it the 17th-ranked state, according to the fifth annual investment report of the Private Equity Growth Capital Council.
Sixty-four Minnesota companies attracted $7.2 billion, or about 1.5 percent of the $486.4 billion invested nationally by nearly 3,900 private equity firms.
California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois were the leading investment states. Minnesota was trailed by Maryland, Arizona and Wisconsin, to round out the top 20. More at www.pegcc.org.
Journalist Volpe joins Barnes & Thornburg
Trisha Volpe, KARE-TV’s Emmy Award-winning journalist turned lawyer, has joined the Minneapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg as a litigator and an associate. Volpe, who attended the William Mitchell College of Law while covering the criminal fraud case of Tom Petters, comes to Barnes & Thornburg with experience in criminal law, First Amendment law and mass tort litigation.
Volpe had practiced at Dorsey & Whitney before doing enterprise reporting in a partnership between KARE and Minnesota Public Radio. - David Phelps