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ND companies protest coal taxes

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Two North Dakota electric utilities are paying a North Dakota coal tax under protest.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck and Minnkota Power Cooperative of Grand Forks are challenging whether they owe $5 million in taxes.

The companies haven't previously talked about the protest. The tax is called a coal conversion tax. It's based on the electricity generated by power plants that the companies own.

The protest is part of the debate about whether to abolish North Dakota property taxes. North Dakotans will decide that question next month.

The coal conversion tax is a type of property tax. If voters abolish the property tax, the change will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

The companies tell The Associated Press they're paying under protest to make it easier to get a refund.