CENTER, N.D. (KXNET) — Mining about four and a half million tons of lignite coal yearly, BNI Coal is a major producer of North Dakota’s electricity.

And thanks to a new federal mine plan, they can continue to do so.

“We deal with a lot of challenges in mining, most of those we can handle on our own, but when you get into the federal system you need the help from those kinds of experts,” said Mike Heger, BNI Coal’s General Manager.

There was a celebration going on at the BNI Coal for many different reasons.

First, thanks to efforts from Senator John Hoeven, the BNI Coal Plant now has approval from the Department of the Interior to mine federal coal.

“This is the first one in the Biden Administration and something that will actually save the ratepayers tens of millions of dollars over the next coming years,” remarked Heger.

Without this approval, it would have cost BNI and the Minnkota Power Cooperative $35 million — which would have hiked up electricity prices for folks across the region.

To recognize the good work that BNI does for our state, Senator Hoeven spent the day touring their mine in Center which supplies coal to Minnkota, who then turns it into electricity.

And another achievement BNI is celebrating is the advancement in Project Tundra. According to Senator Hoeven, the mine is on track to becoming the first coal-fired electric plant in the world that scrubs and sequesters CO2.

“This is the latest, greatest technology, and it supplies baseload electricity for our grid that we need very badly throughout the country, so we don’t have blackouts, brownouts, and those kinds of things,” said Senator Hoeven. “It’s the baseload that prevents that from happening, that’s what these guys do.”

Leaders say that the cutting of the red tape paves the way for even more opportunities, especially when it comes to producing our own clean electricity.

“This type of an outcome provides a little bit of certainty for us, it allows us to set our plans forward in a more orderly fashion, so that we can continue to mine coal for decades to come and provide the reliable electricity that our nation needs,” added Heger.

Project Tundra is designed to capture up to four million metric tons of CO2 annually from the coal-based Milton R. Young Station, located right next to BNI Coal.