Optimistic outlook as potential buyer for Coal Creek Station steps forward

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A feeling of relief has swept over many lignite advocates as news broke on Thursday that Coal Creek Station has a potential buyer.

“I have to admit that I’m guilty of being an optimist,” said John Weeda, the North Dakota Transmission Authority Director.

With the 2022 deadline fast approaching, a collaborative effort to save the plant from shutdown has been happening.

“Everybody has been looking at the loss of Coal Creek with sadness, so to speak, with worry. I think it’s kind of like the biggest economic development opportunity we have in front of us right now. North Dakota could potentially become a leader in carbon capture if this deal is able to go through,” said Republican Sen. John Hoeven.

Advanced carbon capture and sequestration efforts are part of the conversation.

“That buyer is interested in buying both the plant and the direct current line that runs from here to the twin cities, which is a key piece of infrastructure,” said Gov. Doug Burgum.

“We in North Dakota are set up to do it. It’s something we’ve been working on for over a decade. Other places don’t have the legal and regulatory regime in place. They don’t have the technology, the expertise,” said Hoeven.

Coal Creek and its lignite coal supplier, Falkirk Mine, currently employs roughly 700 people.

Underwood resident Tina Goven, whose husband works at Coal Creek, says they had plans in place if the plant did eventually shut down.

“For us, we just always knew that we had the farm and ranch as a backup plan. So, if Brian would not have a job someday or when he does retire, his love has always been farm and ranching. Along with what he does at Coal Creek station,” said Goven.

Goven also says the people of Underwood she’s encountered seem happier now having heard the news.

“Being out in the community and just definitely seeing how people have smiles on their faces. They’re being optimistic about the news that we have heard today,” said Goven.

“I always think of the people involved. The employees of Coal Creek Station. The employees of Falkirk Mine. Some really great people. I’m certainly hoping the news today will help them take courage and continue to be there because their skills are certainly going to be desired by the new owner if these negotiations are successful,” said Weeda.

Burgum says that just hearing news of these negotiations is a good sign.

“They must think they can get a deal done by the end of the summer if they’re making this announcement today, to get through all of the final closings,” Gov. Burgum.

As of now, the name of the potential buyer has not been made public.

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