Friday, July 30, 2021 - 11:02 am

Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford today applauded today’s vote by Great River Energy’s member cooperatives to approve the sale of Coal Creek Station near Underwood to Rainbow Energy Center LLC. The cooperatives also approved the sale of GRE’s high-voltage direct current system to Nexus Line LLC. Rainbow Energy Center and Next are both affiliates of Bismarck-based Rainbow Energy Marketing Corp.

“This is another huge step forward in securing a long-term, viable future for Coal Creek Station, its workers and the communities that depend on the hundreds of jobs at Coal Creek and the nearby Falkirk Mine,” Burgum and Sanford said in a joint statement. “We’re grateful to GRE and its member cooperatives for approving this sale, and to Rainbow Energy Center and Nexus Line for their investment, which will support U.S. energy security and help maintain a strong regional power grid for consumers who depend on the reliable, affordable electricity provided by North Dakota’s abundant lignite coal.”

The GRE member cooperatives also 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, GRE announced.

GRE, a not-for-profit wholesale electric power cooperative providing power in Minnesota and Wisconsin, projected that the transaction could save its members approximately $130 million compared with shutting down Coal Creek Station. GRE and Rainbow Energy Center say the sale is expected to close later this year, after required approvals are obtained.

GRE announced in May 2020 its plans to retire Coal Creek Station, a 1,151-megwatt generating plant in Underwood, during the second half of 2022. At the time, the Governor’s Office had already been actively engaged in conversations with GRE to transfer or sell Coal Creek Station to third party operators. 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.

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.