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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Jan. 18, 2008
CONTACT: Leah Mohr, communications manager, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201
S.D. Supreme Court upholds PUC's decision on Big Stone II
PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota Supreme Court unanimously upheld a decision by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission that will enable the construction of the Big Stone II power plant near Milbank to move forward. In its opinion released Jan. 16, 2008, the Supreme Court found the PUC's approval of the construction permit was correct and the commission properly considered the evidence it was presented.
The case was appealed to the Supreme Court after the 6th Circuit Court upheld the PUC's decision in February 2007. Appellants that collectively asked for the Supreme Court review included Fresh Energy, Izaak Walton League of America-Midwest Office, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. The appellants claimed carbon dioxide emissions from Big Stone II would contribute to global warming.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellants. In the court's written opinion, Justice John J. Konenkamp stated: "Our review of the record shows the PUC entered a well-reasoned and informed decision when it concluded that Big Stone II would not pose a threat of serious injury to the environment."
PUC General Counsel John Smith argued the case on behalf of the commission.
"The Supreme Court recognized that the PUC thoroughly examined the environmental evidence of the proposed Big Stone II plant," said PUC Chairman Gary Hanson. "Additionally, the court stated the commission appropriately used our authority as outlined by South Dakota law and that the PUC had addressed the contentions brought to the court by the appellants," he concluded.
"The Big Stone II case zeroes in on two primary issues: the region's need for additional power generation and the nation's growing concern about global warming," PUC Vice Chairman Steve Kolbeck said. "It is reasonable to understand those two issues may be at odds; it is also reasonable – and validated by the Circuit and Supreme Courts – that the PUC carefully considered and addressed both when granting the permit for Big Stone II," he said.
"There is no question that Big Stone II, like all coal-fired power plants, will emit carbon dioxide. That has never been disputed by any party to the case," stated PUC Commissioner Dusty Johnson. "The proper emphasis, however, should be on how the plant's co-owners will proactively address the emissions issue with state-of-the-art equipment and efficiencies and according to conditions specified by the PUC," he concluded.
The original Big Stone II co-owners included Otter Tail Power Company, Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Great River Energy, Heartland Consumers Power District, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency. Great River Energy and Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency have subsequently withdrawn from the project.
MEDIA NOTE: Review PUC docket S. Ct. No. 24485 for more information, including the full Supreme Court opinion. To access the docket, go to www.puc.sd.gov and select "Commission Actions," then "Commission Dockets" and "2007 Civil Dockets."