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Minn. Power to convert coal plant to gas

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Duluth-based Minnesota Power plans to convert one of its old coal-fired power plants to natural gas, and to close another one.  

Environmental groups and state regulators have been pushing for the change; they say the aging plants are not cost-effective to run.      The utility will spend $15 million to convert its Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes to a natural gas plant in 2015.  

And Minnesota Power will retire one of three coal-fired units at its Taconite Harbor facility on the North Shore of Lake Superior. That unit does not meet state and federal standards for mercury emissions, but the other two do.  

The company is the first of several Minnesota utilities directed by the Public Utilities Commission to consider closing older coal plants.  The PUC is expected to decide on Otter Tail Power's Hoot Lake plant near Fergus Falls on Thursday.