To the editor:
Federal Regulators were right to insist that Otter Tail Power deal with its Big Stone Coal Plant pollution.
Unfortunately, state regulators at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission got their part wrong.
The PUC voted to allow Otter Tail to invest nearly half a billion dollars of its customers' money in Big Stone - rather than phasing it out and replacing the power with natural gas and renewable energy, a cheaper and cleaner alternative.
These investments in a plant nearly 40 years old, commit Otter Tail Power to 40 more years of a coal-rich diet. Moreover, Otter Tail's customers are on the hook for the company's failure to diversify.
To protect public health and respond to the public desire for cleaner generation, Otter Tail Power needs to make big changes to its energy mix. It currently gets more than 85 percent of its electricity from coal - an increasingly risky proposition. Now is the time for Otter Tail to rebalance its mix of energy resources, especially as coal prices are forecast to significantly rise in the coming years.
In the wake of its questionable decision on Big Stone, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will soon order Otter Tail Power to look at replacing the power generated at its Hoot Lake Coal Plant with lower cost alternatives.
The PUC order will require Otter Tail to study the cost of retiring - versus upgrading the plant. Otter Tail prefers to burn more coal - spending millions of its customers' dollars to rehab Hoot Lake, a plant even older than Big Stone.
Later this year when the study is completed, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will have a fresh opportunity to make the right decision.
To protect public health and customer and investor pocketbooks, the PUC must order Otter Tail Power to replace Hoot Lake with a better, cleaner and cheaper alternative.
Energy Consultant and Policy Analyst
Clean Up the River Environment