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MN Power gets more time to shut coal plants

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Duluth-based Minnesota Power will get more time before it has to make a decision about closing three of its oldest coal-fired power plants.

The Public Utilities Commission decided Thursday to wait until next year when the company files its resource plan.

Minnesota Power says it needs more time to study the reliability and socioeconomic implications of closing the plants, which are located in the Iron Range town of Aurora and in Taconite Harbor on Lake Superior.   

The state energy office and environmental groups had hoped the PUC would order the company to close the plants.

J. Drake Hamilton, with the group Fresh Energy, says there's no reason to wait. 

  "There is overwhelming analytical support and lots of public input that continuing to operate those 50 and 60-year-old coal plants, that are very dirty, isn't in the public interest for economic reasons and health reasons," said Hamilton. 

The company is the first of several Minnesota utilities directed by the PUC to look at closing older coal plants.

Rochester's utility board decided earlier this week to close its old coal plant.