Gov. Doug Burgum released the following statement today after the sale of Coal Creek Station to Rainbow Energy Center LLC cleared its final regulatory hurdle. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission today unanimously approved the transfer of Coal Creek Station’s high-voltage direct current transmission line from Great River Energy (GRE) to Nexus Line LLC, a subsidiary of Rainbow Energy Center LLC. Rainbow Energy Center and Nexus Line are both affiliates of Bismarck-based Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp.
“This approval is a momentous step toward Rainbow Energy taking ownership of Coal Creek Station and providing a long-term future for the power plant, its workers and the communities supported by the hundreds of jobs at Coal Creek and the nearby Falkirk Mine,” Burgum said. “It also offers North Dakota the opportunity to further prove that we can be a national and world leader in carbon capture, storage and utilization through our continued focus on innovation over regulation. Preserving the baseload generation that Coal Creek provides is critical to U.S. energy security and maintaining a strong regional power grid, and we’re grateful to the industry, the state Legislature and our congressional delegation for their collaboration on ensuring a viable future for North Dakota’s abundant lignite coal.”
Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford began working with GRE to facilitate a sale of Coal Creek Station to a third party operator even before GRE announced in May 2020 its plans to close the 1,151-megawatt generating plant in Underwood during the second half of 2022. Burgum announced on March 25, 2021, that GRE was in exclusive negotiations to sell Coal Creek Station and GRE’s high-voltage, direct current transmission system that extends between central North Dakota and Minnesota. The pending sale to Rainbow Energy Center and Nexus Line was announced June 30.
In July, GRE’s member cooperatives approved a related purchase power agreement under which GRE will buy 1,050 megawatts of power from Rainbow Energy Center for approximately two years, followed by 300 megawatts for approximately eight years.
Burgum signed several bills during this year’s legislative session that will support the lignite industry as it continues to innovate for the future and supply reliable, low-cost electricity for residents and businesses in North Dakota and beyond. Those bills included:
- House Bill 1412, which exempts coal plants from the state’s coal conversion facility tax for the next five years. The bill is expected to save the industry over $20 million per year, freeing up funds to invest in innovative projects such as carbon capture and sequestration that will curb emissions and improve the industry’s long-term viability.
- Senate Bill 2152, which provides a sales tax exemption for carbon dioxide used for secure geologic storage.
- SB 2206, which allows utilities to recover costs for carbon capture.
Burgum and Sanford have promoted an all-of-the-above energy approach based on “innovation, not regulation” to advance energy development with environmental stewardship. Under the Burgum-Sanford administration, in 2018 North Dakota became the first state in the nation to receive approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate geologic storage of carbon dioxide, which presents a huge economic opportunity for both the lignite industry and the oil industry through enhanced oil recovery.