North Dakota PSC reviews objection to Coyote Creek coal mine permit

The North Dakota Public Service Commission is due for to look at April 2 and April 7 work sessions at an objection related to a November 2013 application for a mining permit from Coyote Creek Mining Co. LLC covering 8,091.51 acres located in Mercer County, southwest of the City of Beulah.

The PSC is the agency in North Dakota that permits coal mines, while in most states that kind of permitting is done by the state environmental agency. The PSC issued this mine permit last October, but a local landowner, Casey Voigt, asked for re-hearing of that decision.

Coyote Creek on March 20 filed its final arguments in the case, addressing concerns about mine reclamation raised by Voigt. The company also noted that both state and federal studies have not shown the presence of a protected alluvial valley floor (AVF) in the permit area, despite the assertions of Voigt. An AVF is a particularly fertile area of farmland that can’t be fully restored by post-mining reclamation due to damage to sub-surface water resources.

This is the first major new mine permitted in North Dakota since the late 1970s. The mine is scheduled to begin delivering coal to the Coyote Power Station operated by Otter Tail Power in May 2016. The average annual coal production will be about 2.5 million tons per year with a projected first year production of 1.7 million tons.

Coyote Station is a single 427-MW lignite–fired unit located two miles south of Beulah, N.D. It is operated by Otter Tail Power (35% ownership) and jointly owned with Montana–Dakota Utilities (25%), Northern Municipal Power Agency (30%) and NorthWestern Energy (10%). The original coal contract for the plant, which is a minemouth operation, expires in May 2016. In October 2012, the Coyote owners entered into a lignite sales agreement with Coyote Creek Mining, a subsidiary of North American Coal, to deliver the annual coal supply needs of Coyote Station beginning in May 2016 and running through 2040. This will replace a Westmoreland Coal mine that has served the Coyote plant for many years.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.