MN Power Announces Steps to Move Beyond Coal

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January 30, 2013

Jessica Tatro, Sierra Club, 612-963-9642,
J. Drake Hamilton, Fresh Energy, 651-366-7557,
Eric Jensen, Izaak Walton League- America, 651-649-1446 x26,  

Clean Air Victory in Northern Minnesota as Minnesota Power Announces Phasing Out Coal at Two Minnesota Plants

Minnesota’s Second-Largest Utility Will Phase out Coal Burning at Syl Laskin Plant, Retire One Coal-Fired Unit at Taconite Harbor Plant

DULUTH – Today, Minnesota Power announced plans to retire coal-burning units at two northern Minnesota coal plants. As Minnesota’s second-largest power company, the utility draws close to 85 percent of its power from coal-fired power plants. By 2015, Minnesota Power will stop burning coal in one unit at its Taconite Harbor plant, and convert units at the Syl Laskin coal plant to burn natural gas. Rather than phasing out coal at its Boswell plant, the utility announced plans to invest more than $350 million to retrofit a unit at the plant to comply with modern pollution standards.

“Minnesota Power is addicted to dirty coal, but today’s announcement is a sign they are ready to change their ways,” said Jessica Tatro, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign. “ Minnesota spends billions of dollars every year importing coal from out-of-state. Installing pollution controls at old coal plants keeps us tied to a fuel of the past, and the millions of dollars Minnesota Power plans to spend on retrofits should be invested in expanding renewable energy in northern Minnesota.”


The decision to retire the coal-burning units comes after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission supported a motion to protect customers by ordering Minnesota Power to address the viability of Syl Laskin and Taconite Harbor and consider investments in cleaner energy due to cost, reliability and pricing.


“After over 50 years of operation, the time has arrived to phase out these plants.” said James Hietala, Duluth resident and electrical engineer. “I am excited for this announcement and hopeful that this is a shift in direction moving beyond coal towards clean energy.”


Late last year, Minnesota Power completed construction of  more than 400 megawatts of wind energy. Statewide, Minnesota draws 18 percent of power from wind energy. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are at least 16 facilities in Minnesota that are currently manufacturing components for the wind energy industry. Minnesota ranks fifth nationally for most installed wind capacity.


“Minnesota Power has invested in more than 400 megawatts of wind power in the past few years, said J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director with Fresh Energy .“They know the value of clean, renewable energy. As they continue to reduce dependence on polluting fossil fuels, we urge Minnesota Power to focus on investments in renewable energy, with no carbon pollution.”


“Pollution from burning coal at Minnesota Power’s coal plants makes it difficult for northern Minnesota residents to breathe, and it disturbs our pristine air and water on the Iron Range,” said Eric Jensen with the Izaak Walton League. “Clean air and clean water are a vital part of our economy in Minnesota, and we applaud the decision to reduce dependence on coal.”




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