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Great River Energy closing Stanton plant

STANTON, N.D.—Great River Energy has announced plans to retire the Stanton Station power plant by May 2017.

The company said the plant located about 40 miles northwest of Bismarck is no longer economic to operate with current low prices.

"After careful consideration of several alternatives, it became clear that retiring the plant was in the best interest of our member cooperatives," David Saggau, GRE president and CEO, said in a statement.

Since March, Stanton Station has been generating electricity on a limited basis, only firing up 65 percent to 75 percent of the time when market prices made it economical. During that time, it often has been more affordable to operate other plants or purchase power from the regional market.

There are 65 GRE employees at Stanton Station. Those employees will be able to apply for any openings at other GRE facilities, company spokesman Lyndon Anderson said.

GRE has two open positions in Minnesota but this number continually changes, according to Anderson, who said the company expects there to be a number of positions open in the next year at its North Dakota facilities.

"We are making every effort to minimize impacts on our employees and the community through this transition," Saggau said. "We are providing Stanton Station employees with a number of support resources and services whether or not they continue working for Great River Energy at another location."

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1593, of which Stanton Station employees are members, did not wish to make a comment regarding the closing.

The company will develop plans over the next nine months to decommission Stanton Station "in a responsible manner that will safeguard the local environment and assure the safety and security of the local community."

Environmental groups praised the announcement Friday.

"Great River Energy's decision today to move away from coal is an enormous victory for clean air and energy security in our communities," Michelle Rosier, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in North Dakota, said in a statement. "Now, it's time for Great River Energy to ensure that workers, communities and those impacted by this announcement are not left behind as we transition away from coal."

Sierra Club said the closing of Stanton Station will help North Dakota meet the 45 percent carbon dioxide emissions reduction set forth by the Clean Power Plan, which is currently stalled by lawsuits.

"Retiring this uneconomic coal unit will save money for GRE's customers in North Dakota and Minnesota and help cut carbon pollution in North Dakota, a win-win-win for the utility, the states, and customers," J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy said in a statement.

The 189-megawatt plant began generating power in 1966.

GRE continues to operate the Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood, N.D., and the Spiritwood Station plant near Jamestown, N.D.