October 6, 2008

Group Hopes to Halt Coal Drying Plant at South Heart



The Dakota Resource Council said Friday it wants the federal Office of Surface Mining to stop construction of a coal drying plant near South Heart.

The organization says federal mining laws require the plant to be part of a mining permit from the State Public Service Commission.

The coal drying plant is not yet in construction, though ground for it is staked southwest of South Heart, near Dickinson. GTL Energy, of Golden, Colo., and Australia, received zoning approval for the plant adjacent to a proposed coal mine, also near South Heart.

GTL Energy plans to dry lignite shipped in from various sources and then sell the how-to technology to various coal users, who could be as far away as China, or as near as Beulah.

The coal drying plant would be located adjacent to a coal mine proposed by Great Northern Power Development.

Great Northern says it plans to be an investment partner in the coal-drying plant, where the technology to dry South Heart coal to improve its Btu efficiency would be developed.

Great Northern has acquired county zoning for the mine, but has not yet applied for mining permit.

PSC's chief of reclamation, Jim Deutsch, said the state agency determined that GTL Energy does not need inclusion in a mining permit because it is not an activity within a coal mine, as described in federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act language.

Deutsch said his agency made a similar determination a year ago for a proposed coal drying - also called coal beneficiation - plant at Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station near Underwood.

"We feel we're correct in this case," Deutsch said.

Terrence Kardong, DRC member and chairman of the organization's Clean Electricity Taskforce, said the coal drying plant would be part of the proposed mining operation and that federal law says a "coal preparation plant"" must be permitted under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

He said the PSC errs in claiming the coal drying plant would not be operated in connection with the South Heart coal mine.

"Everyone knows that's ridiculous," said Kardong. "GTL wouldn't locate anywhere near South Heart if they didn't expect a mine to come in next door."

Kardong said the PSC's error warrants an immediate review and intervention by the Office of Surface Mining.

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