Today, Minnesota Power based in Duluth announced their decision to retire two older coal-burning power plants, Boswell 1 and 2 in Cohasset, MN, near Grand Rapids, by the end of 2018. Fresh Energy and our clean energy partners advocated that these units appear to be no longer economic to run, with cleaner energy available and cheaper. Regulators at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on June 9, 2016 evaluated the economics of running these older units with needed additional pollution controls, compared to other cleaner, cheaper options for meeting energy needs, and the PUC agreed with us. The regulators ordered big modifications in Minnesota Power’s 15-year resource plan. They required that the almost 60-year-old Boswell 1 and 2 units must be retired no later than 2022, or as soon as sufficient replacement energy and capacity was available.
We are pleased with the company’s economic decision not to wait another 6 years, and that the several years of lead time before 2018 allows them to provide for a smooth transition for the plant’s workers to equivalent positions at the company.
These older, smaller coal units (each 65 megawatts) emitted almost 1.3 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. Retiring them is the equivalent of taking more than 247,000 cars off of Minnesota’s roads. Coal units also emit mercury, a toxic pollutant that can damage the brains and other organs of developing children, and also harms fish, loons, otters, and other wildlife. Ceasing burning coal takes that mercury footprint down to zero. This is a critical positive development in the lake country of Minnesota, where mercury contamination is a leading reason for fish consumption advisories.