MINOT, N.D. — The close of Coal Creek Station, North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant, would be socially and economically devastating for the central part of the state.
If it closes, schools and businesses will also close. Communities around the facility will wither.
It’s an ugly reality.
To gloss over that reality, certain people prefer a particular narrative for why the plant is closing.
It’s the market at work, they say. It’s cheap natural gas that has done coal in, they insist.
An example of this narrative at work came last week from my fellow columnist Mike McFeely. In his piece, he touted research from the federal Department of Energy, showing the growth in gas-fired electricity on our grid.
That’s all true, as far as it goes. The same fracking-driven renaissance in the oil and gas industry, which has been a boon to the Bakken oil fields and North Dakota’s economy over the last decade, has made vast volumes of very cheap natural gas available.
That has created stiff competition for coal in the overall energy markets.
The problem with applying that narrative to the situation with Coal Creek Station is that Great River Energy, the Minnesota-based company which currently owns the facility, isn’t planning to replace the coal plant with gas power, despite North Dakota’s plentiful gas resources.
They’re planning to replace it with wind power.