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Letter: Big Stone II Project is in 'best interest' of customers

I feel compelled to address the letter from Henry VanOfflen carried in the October 5 issue of the Detroit Lakes Tribune titled ("Big Stone II would not be cheaper, and would pollute"). He takes the Big Stone II Project to task on two issues: cost and carbon dioxide emissions.

As a member of Missouri River Energy Services (one of the five Big Stone II participants), Detroit Lakes Public Utilities will get power from the Big Stone II Project. Big Stone II was selected as the best option for our future power supplies for precisely the reasons Mr. VanOfflen criticizes: least cost and respect for the environment.

His statement that two Minnesota law judges have been the only set of "independent eyes" to evaluate the cost effectiveness of Big Stone II is untrue. The fact is that the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, South Dakota Supreme Court, North Dakota Public Service Commission and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission staff have all individually evaluated the project and found it to be the least-cost option for the one million people the project will serve.

Our utilities have demonstrated to those organizations that, in addition to investing heavily in renewable energy sources and pursuing vigorous energy efficiency goals, we will still need a low-cost baseload plant to ensure that their customers will have reliable and affordable power. Baseload is power that is available to meet our needs around the clock.

The existing Big Stone Plant will be integrated into the new Big Stone II plant's pollution control system, which will either reduce or hold constant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury -- all while more than doubling the site's output. This is a great environmental story to tell.

In addition, the Big Stone II utilities have selected a boiler technology that will produce approximately 20 percent less carbon dioxide than existing coal-fired plants. This will be an excellent transition from today's reliance on fossil-fueled generation to an economy where carbon dioxide emissions are greatly constrained. This is not unlike the hybrid vehicle that will serve as a bridging technology in our use of transportation fuels.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission recently hired an independent expert to advise them on the cost of Big Stone II. I'm confident that, when this additional set of "independent eyes" examines the project, the commissioners will find it to be in the best interest of the five utilities' customers -- including the residents and businesses of Detroit Lakes. -- Curt Punt, Detroit Lakes Utilities Superintendent