‘Sigh of relief’: Underwood residents react to sale of Coal Creek Station

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Rainbow Energy Center announced Wednesday its plans to buy Coal Creek Station in Underwood, capping off months of uncertainty for the future of the state’s largest power plant.

KX News spoke with residents a day after the announcement, who say it’s brought a sigh of relief.

Coal is the lifeblood of Underwood, North Dakota with the industry employing a big chunk of the roughly 800 people who live there.

“40 percent. A good 35 to 40 percent, which is huge,” Mayor Leon Weisenburger said.

Weisenburger says Great River Energy’s closure of Coal Creek in 2022 would have been devastating.

“A lot of sleepless nights. A lot of worry that if they’re going to have a job in a year and a half or two years. There was panic,” Weisenburger said.

But with Bismarck-based Rainbow Energy Center’s plans to buy and continue operating the plant, months of worry have come to a close.

The sale of Coal Creek Station is welcome news for the more than 260 people employed here, and the more than 400 people at Falkirk Mining Company, which supplies the coal for the plant.

“Our prayers have been answered with a local company here in North Dakota that has a reputation, a strong reputation for making good choices,” Weisenburger.

Justin Adolf owns Grimsley’s convenience store right off the highway. It’s the first thing you see when you drive into town.

“My business relies on that place more than people realize,” Adolf said.

Adolf says he’s considered downsizing his business if the plant shut down.

“It’s a huge relief. I know everybody in this town’s feeling a little bit better today knowing that we know for sure that it is sold,” Adolf said.

Manager of Underwood Farm Supply Paul Cabrera says when the community first thought the plant was closing, some people put their house up for sale.

“It kind of hurt us, our small town was getting even smaller, but things are starting to recover,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera says coal is the best form of constant energy out there, but interest in renewable sources is growing.

“We just look forward to seeing what’s going to happen next, and hopefully get some other interest in people coming into town, and hopefully going with solar and wind energy, getting more good things from that,” Cabrera said.

The sale of the plant is expected to be finalized by the end of this year.

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