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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Big Stone II selected for midwinter falsehood festival

The Obama accession to presidential office has challenged the petulant and malevolent to put their best efforts forward in a festival of malignity, inanity, and misinformation.

The blogosphere is chock full of mentally and spiritually uplifting efforts this weekend. A couple of professors have decided that those literate enough to read blog posts need to be lectured on the evils of incest. One of those edifying sallies is illustrated with a family portrait of the Obamas.

Another of the great wits, who makes such generous contributions to the excellence of discourse in blogland, announced, under the guise of telling truth to wind power, that the "Obama environmentalists kill SD Energy Project." A string of South Dakota's finest thoughts and expressions follow the post.

However, journalist Bob Mercer takes the wind out of the gaseous assaults on credulity by doing some workmanlike reporting on the EPA's objections to the air quality permit issued to the Big Stone power plant. Here is his report in its entirety:

PIERRE - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants changes in the clean-air permit issued last year for the Big Stone power plant in northeastern South Dakota.

The state Board of Minerals and Environment approved two permits in November. One is the new Title V clean-air operating permit for the existing Big Stone coal-fired electricity plant near Milbank. The other is the PSD clean-air permit for construction and initial operation of the proposed Big Stone II coal-fired plant that will be built next door.

EPA notified the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources by telephone on Wednesday that it had objections to the Title V permit. DENR received a 16-page letter from EPA detailing the objections on Thursday, the final day for EPA to complete its review.

"We're still trying to figure it out," state Environment Secretary Steve Pirner said Friday night. EPA's letter focuses on the Title V permit for Big Stone, not the PSD permit needed for construction of the Big Stone II. But both come into play in EPA's objections.

The Title V permit for Big Stone contains some provisions regarding Big Stone II, because the plants will be operated side by side. Under the clean-air permitting process, Big Stone II would need to apply for its own full Title V permit after it is built and has operated for a few months. One of the changes sought by EPA is amendment of the Title V permit for Big Stone to reflect the PSD permit provisions for Big Stone II.

Opponents to Big Stone II meanwhile have filed a lawsuit in state circuit court challenging the PSD permit for Big Stone II.Otter Tail Power, Montana-Dakota Utilities and three other utilities want to build the Big Stone II to meet an anticipated growing demand for electricity.

A Sierra Club official issued a statement Friday praising the EPA."This is a great day not only for clean energy and people's health, it's a victory for the rule of law," Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Move Beyond Coal Campaign, said in a release. "EPA is signaling that it is back to enforcing long-standing legal requirements fairly and consistently nationwide."

"The press release was a total mischaracterization," responded Dan Sharp, communications director for the Big Stone II project.Neither Pirner nor Otter Tail's Sharp saw the EPA objections as a death knell for the Big Stone II project."It's a standard procedure for EPA to review Title V permit applications," Sharp said. "This is not unusual."

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States