A measure to repeal Minnesota's restrictions on new coal-fired power plants passed committees in both houses of the Legislature Tuesday.
Currently, if a utility intends to build a new coal plant, or import more coal power into the state, it would have to either reduce emissions at a different plant, or find some other way to compensate for the increased gases.
The chief author of the bill to repeal the restrictions, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said the state will need coal energy.
"If we're going to be prepared when the economy does turn around and hopefully soon, we need to start looking at the full picture, and coal is a very important part of it, and clean coal," Rosen said.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said the current rule is part of the state's move toward cleaner energy, and has contributed to the boom in wind generation in the state.
"I am extremely concerned about passage of this bill, taking the lid off, knocking all that good work we did out of balance," Dibble said. "Frankly from a near-term economic perspective, we are sending hundreds of millions of dollars out of state and generating coal energy. The vast majority of the wind and the renewable energy sector are dollars that are generated here and stay here."
Right now, only one Minnesota utility has announced plans to generate more with coal. Great River Energy is negotiating with the state on how to offset emissions from a plant in North Dakota.