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Great River Energy to retire 189-MW ND coal plant

Minnesota-basedelectric power cooperative GreatRiver Energy will retire its 189-MW, coal-fired Station in Mercer County,N.D., by May 2017, ending the life of the plant after about 50 years ofoperation, the company said July 15.

Stantonhas become uneconomic to operate in the face of low power prices in the region,according to a Great River Energy statement. The plant has been running on alimited basis as the co-op has found it cheaper to use other plants or buypower in the marketplace. According to S&P Global MarketIntelligence data, Stanton operated at an annual average capacity factor of64.9% in 2015, down from 80.98% in 2010.

Thecompany also said on its website that Stanton needed unspecified "improvements"that would have made the plant even more expensive to run. The plant neededupgrades to comply with regional haze regulations, according to a statementfrom the Sierra Club that said the decision to retire "will put anend to the Stanton Station coal plant's 50-year legacy of mercury, arsenic, andother toxic pollutants that have threatened the health of North Dakotafamilies."

Stantonstarted generating electricity in 1966, Great River Energy said.The company plans to continue to operate its two other primarily coal-firedplants, also in North Dakota: the 1,142.5-MW Coal Creek plant and the 99-MW plant. "Weremain a committed partner in North Dakota's energy industry," Great RiverEnergy President and CEO David Saggau said in the statement.

Coal-fired capacity, including Stanton, makes up about half ofGreat River Energy's current operating capacity across its power plant fleet,according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. In 2016,Stanton bought over 160,000 tons of coal from 's Spring CreekCoal Co. in Montana.

GreatRiver Energy calls itself the second-largest electric supplier in Minnesota.It supplies power to 28 electric cooperatives that serve 1.7 millionMinnesotans. Great River Energy already has sufficient capacity to meetthe needs of its members without Stanton, according to the company's website. "Wewill meet future demand for energy with conservation, energy efficiency,renewable energy, natural gas and market purchases," it said.

The issue of North Dakota coal plants exporting theirpower into Minnesota has become controversial due to a 2007 Minnesota law thatattempted to restrict power coming into the state from sources, such as coalplants, that emit high amounts of CO2. North Dakota sued over this action, anda federal appeals court recently uphelda decision to strike down part of Minnesota's law, but Minnesota Gov. MarkDayton has said his state will appeal.