PUC asked to reconsider Benson Power closing vote

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Vote sets stage for Xcel Energy to buy, close biomass power plant


By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

Arguing that closing the Benson Power, LLC, biomass electric generation plant would adversely affect the environment and state economy, and violate guaranteed state contractual obligations, multiple petitioners are seeking to keep the facility open.

North American Fertilizer/Beaver Creek Transport, the Minnesota Timber Association, and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, are asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse its order allowing Xcel Energy to proceed with the purchase and closing of Benson Power.

North American Fertilizer (NAF) is the company adjacent to Benson Power that processes the ash from the plant’s burning a mix of wood chips and turkey into fertilizer.

Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission issued an order Jan. 23 approving Xcel Energy’s purchase of Benson Power, LLC, ending the power purchase agreement that required it to buy the plant’s electricity through 2028, and shutting it down.

That order started a 20-day process in which those opposed to the PUC’s decision could ask it to reconsider it. That period has ended. The PUC now has 60 days to review the reconsideration requests and make a final decision.

The PUC’s order was based on information gathered for a Nov. 30 public hearing and the testimony present at the hearing on Xcel’s request. The PUC’s board voted 5-0 to allow Xcel to proceed with purchasing and closing the plant.

If the PUC sticks with its Nov. 30 vote, the plant could be shut down by this summer. Once it is shut down, Xcel plans to contract for its demolition.

The PUC’s Jan. 23 order states: “The Commission hereby approves Xcel’s proposal to terminate the PPA with Benson Power, LLC, acquire the plant, and close the facility.”  It further says, “The Commission finds that the transaction to temporarily acquire the Benson facility is consistent with the public interest and otherwise meets the requirements of…” state statute.

Minnesota’s Legislature passed a bill last spring that was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton

Those who have petitioned for PUC reconsideration of the order state they believed the PUC erred in reaching its conclusions....


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