Bill would repeal limits on new coal plan construction

Environmental groups are calling attention to mercury pollution coming from coal-fired power plants in an effort to stop deregulation bills at the State Capitol.

Legislators are considering bills that would repeal Minnesota's restrictions on new coal plants.

Utilities are installing equipment to capture most of the mercury from their coal-fired power plants -- the largest source of mercury pollution. But the Sierra Club and Environment Minnesota say that's no reason to allow new coal plants.

State Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, said Minnesotans don't want a repeal.

"I've heard some of current leadership mistake their election results for a mandate to roll back environmental laws, and that is not what the voters said," Anderson said.

Legislators who want to roll back the restrictions say it's a mistake to limit choices on energy while the state's economy is still struggling.

The chief author of legislation to repeal the limits, state Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, said new control technologies can remove 90 percent of the mercury.

"Any coal plant that could or might be built if my bill prevails would be coal plants that have that kind of technology on them," Beard said. "It would be the latest technology and best science to remove as much of the particulate and pollutants that we can."

Current Minnesota law says utilities can't build new coal-fired power plants until the state has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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