Groups sue over Minn. Big Stone II decisionby Mike Edgerly, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Several Minnesota-based environmental groups are launching a court challenge to the Public Utilities Commission's approval of transmission lines for the Big Stone II coal-fired power plant.
The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy appealed the PUC's decision to allow power lines from the plant to bring electricity into Minnesota.
The plant would be built in eastern South Dakota, but the five utilities involved had to seek the PUC's permission for transmission lines to bring electricity to customers in western and central Minnesota.
The transmission lines were approved in January, and the utilities plan to move forward with the project, said utilities spokesman Dan Sharp.
The environmental groups argue in their appeal that the utilities failed to show Big Stone II is needed to meet future demand, and also failed to show the plant would be the most cost-effective way to meet that demand, rather than through conservation and other alternatives.
The appeal was filed by the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Fresh Energy, the Izaak Walton League of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Wind on the Wires.
Minnesota-based Otter Tail Power Co. is leading the project, which would supply up to 580 megawatts of power to customers in Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana and Iowa.
The other utilities involved are Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District, Missouri River Energy Services and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.
Sharp said the utilities hope the appeals court will uphold the PUC's decision so that construction on the plant can begin in late 2010. If all goes as planned, Big Stone II could be online by late 2015.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)