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Coal Creek’s closure creates need to look ahead now

Great River Energy’s announcement that the cooperative will close its Coal Creek coal-fired generation station near Washburn in 2022 is a blow to the local communities where many employees live and that also count on the coal taxes. It’s a blow that the state’s leaders need to work to deflect through any options that can be uncovered over the next two years.

As reported by The Minot Daily News on Friday, Coal Creek employs 260 workers but, in addition, the closure will impact the future of the nearby Falkirk Mine, owned by North American Coal, which supplies the plant with coal and employs about 500 workers. Some employees are likely to remain beyond 2022 to help with the plant’s decommissioning.

Local communities have benefitted over the past 40 years from Coal Creek and the Falkirk Mine. Coal taxes helped McLean County build a jail and courthouse. Cities, schools, townships and fire districts also have benefitted from the taxes.

Jon Brekke, Great River Energy vice president and chief power supply officer, said they are “mindful of the impacts” the plant’s closure will have on its employees and the nearby communities and are doing what they can to mitigate those impacts. The company said it will continue to pay communities and schools in the county $3 million a year for five years after the plant shuts down to help with the transition.

Leaders of various nearby communities acknowledge the closure will hurt their communities and are worried about it.

Gov. Doug Burgum, North Dakota’s congressional delegation – Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong – and Jason Bohrer, president and CEO of the Lignite Energy Council, all said they will work to find another owner to keep the plant operating beyond 2022.

Great River Energy has made its decision. Now it’s time for the state’s leaders to do their part, develop a plan and move ahead to mitigate the impacts of this closure.

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