Update: May 2012
The Dacotah Chapter of the Sierra Club and Dakota Resource Council officially filed a citizens’ lawsuit regarding North Dakota Public Service Commissioners’ (PSC) violation of campaign contribution rules in federal surface mining law. The suit details $54,000 in campaign contributions from coal company interests and PSC regulatory decisions directly related to the companies
Update: September 2011
An administrative law judge has denied a request for an eastern North Dakota hearing on a proposed coal mine near the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, saying it was filed too late and would go against normal procedure.
The permit application is is under review by Allen Hoberg, at the request of the North Dakota Public Service Commission
Update: March 2011
On January 12, 2011, the state Public Service Commission acknowledged South Heart’s permit application for a nearly 4,600-acre strip South Heart Mine is complete. In March 2011, Neighbors United, a group of concerned homeowners delivered 3000 postcards to the PSC requesting that the PSC deny the proposed coal mine and power plant’s permit application. The PSC will be holding public hearings on this project.
The Dakota Resource Council’s state court appeal of the Stark County Commission’s rezoning decision is also expected soon.
Update: January 2011
Dakota Resource Council’s state court appeal of the Stark County Commission’s rezoning decision is still ongoing. The Council filed its opening brief in late November 2010 and the Commission responded in late December 2010. It is unknown when the court will issue a decision.
On November 24, 2010, the state Public Service Commission sent a second notice of deficiency to South Heart Coal, pointing out a number of areas in which the coal mine application was still deficient. The developer sent in a second revision at the end of December, which is still under review by the commission.
Update: November 2010
The state court appeal filed in May 2010 of the Stark County Commission’s rezoning decision has yet to move forward. So far, the only documents filed have been transcripts of the commission’s meetings and a number of letters from various state court judges recusing themselves from hearing the case.
Also, in late October 2010, South Heart Coal filed its response to the state’s notice of deficiency of the company’s application for a strip coal mine three miles from South Heart. Agency staff will review South Heart’s response to determine whether it corrects the deficiencies, including some regarding surface water impacts, post-mining land use, business entity information, and reclamation and operation plans. If allowed to proceed, South Heart estimates it will mine 130,000 tons of coal in 2014, more than 900,000 tons in 2015 and about 2.4 million tons each year thereafter. In a newspaper article about the revised application, the company confirmed its intent to build a gasification plant on the site as well.
Update: July 2010
The land use/re-zoning battle surrounding the proposed South Heart gasification plant intensified when Dakota Resource Council and a number of county residents filed a state court appeal in May 2010 challenging the Stark County Commission’s decision to re-zone a parcel of land needed for the new plant. The current status of the zoning change is unclear; when the commission voted in April, it listed several conditions, ranging from permits to water replacement, that the developer had to meet in order for the approval to proceed. However, in early July, the commission reversed course and stated that the approval should have taken place immediately after the April vote. The lawsuit is in the very early stages.
Update: April 2010
On March 29, 2010, South Heart Coal filed a permit application to mine 2.4 million tons of coal a year with the North Dakota Public Services Commission, which expects to take six months to process the application. If allowed to proceed, the mine would supply coal to South Heart’s proposed $1.5 billion power plant, which would gasify coal to produce hydrogen to generate about 175 MWs of electricity. Right now, the company expects to submit an air quality permit in the next few months and hopes to begin construction in the fall of 2011 and producing in 2014.
South Heart is still in the midst of a land use battle, after a district judge overturned a Stark County Commission decision to re-zone land needed for the mine and power plant from agricultural to industrial for failing to follow proper procedures. On April 5, the Stark County Planning Board held a public meeting on South Heart’s application to rezone the land, which also covers a number of requests for conditional use permits, including a chemical fertilizer plant, a solid waste landfill, and hazardous material storage. Over fifteen people spoke out against the proposed change, citing negative impacts to the area’s air quality and local water wells and potential problems with odor and noise, as well as impacts to nearby Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
Update: February 2010
On February 24, 2010, the North Dakota Public Service Commission decided that GTL Energy’s coal drying plant does not need a state mining permit and dismissed a complaint filed by Dakota Resource Council and nearby landowners. In its decision, the commission found that owners of a proposed mine near the plant were not affiliated with GTL Energy and GTL therefore did not need a mining permit, which would have allowed nearby landowners to participate in the permitting process. The application for the mine was withdrawn last year.
GTL Energy has almost finished building the new facility, which will use a process call beneficiation to dry North Dakota lignite coal, making the coal easier to ship via train to new markets. Once completed, GTL will begin testing the drying process on coal from North Dakota, as well as New Zealand and Australia.
Update: January 2010
At the end of October 2009, Dakota Resource Council and nearby landowners filed another lawsuit challenging a recent county rezoning of agricultural land needed for GTL Energy’s proposed coal preparation plant, which is scheduled to start operations this month. According to the Dakota Resource Council, the county’s rezoning must be overturned because it is illegal “spot zoning,” which singles out a small area for treatment that is different from the treatment of similar surrounding land. Additionally, Dakota Resource Council filed a complaint almost a year ago with the state’s Public Service Commission; the complaint challenges the construction of the coal prep plant without a mining permit. For more information on both legal actions, please visit the Dakota Resource Council’s website.
Update: December 2009
According to a newspaper article, the coal preparation plant will be completed by the end of December 2009 and will begin drying coal from North Dakota mines in January 2010. GTL Energy plans to begin drying coal from other mines, including some as far away as New Zealand, later in 2010.
According to the North Dakota Department of Health, a construction permit application for the proposed IGCC plant and larger coal mine are not expected until the spring or summer of 2010. Also, South Heart had filed an application with the U.S. Department of Energy for funds from the agency’s Clean Coal Power Initiative, but was not once of the three coal plants selected for federal funding when the agency announced the winners in early December 2009.
Update: November 2009
In early October 2009, the Stark County Commission approved rezoning an area near South Heart for industrial use in support of GTL Energy’s coal preparation plant. The commission’s decision didn’t come as a surprise as it has been supportive of the plant in the past. A previous zoning change in favor of the plant was struck down by a state court judge a few months ago.
Update: August 2009
On July 31, 2009, Great Northern Project Developers announced it was changing plans yet again for its proposed coal-to-gas plant near South Heart; the company said the plant, now estimated at $1 billion, will convert coal to hydrogen and produce 175 MWs of electricity instead. Great Northern announced the plant switch on the same day that it asked the state Industrial Commission to write a letter in support of the proposed plant to the U.S. Department of Energy for financial aid. The commission agreed, noting that $10 million in state funds has already been committed to the plant, along with legislative and technical support.
Plant opponents scored a victory in late July 2009 when Southwest District Judge Zane Anderson ruled in favor of Dakota Resource Council and five landowners in their state court lawsuit against the project. The group originally challenged the Stark County Commission’s decision to rezone over 7,000 acres of farm land as industrial property for the proposed project and related coal mine and coal-drying plant. Judge Anderson said that the commissioners failed to follow state law by not providing written justifications for their decisions.
At issue in the lawsuit, but not decided by Judge Anderson, is whether or not project proponents must obtain consent for zoning changes from landowners who have property within 200 feet of the affected land. In his ruling, the judge suggested that this zoning rule could be an obstacle to the mine and two plants. In response, Stark County Commissioners are now trying to change the rule and have scheduled an advisory board hearing for August 17, 2009 to discuss it.
Update: July 2009
In late April, the North Dakota Department of Health held a public hearing on the proposed construction permit for South Heart’s coal prep plant. Opponents of the proposed plant made up the majority of those attending the meeting. South Heart has begun building the plant, despite the fact that the department has not issued the final construction permit.
Dakota Resource Council is leading the way in challenging the proposed South Heart plant. In early 2009, the group filed a complaint before the state Public Service Commission challenging its decision not to include the coal prep plant in the permit for related mining activities. Despite South Heart’s withdrawal of the mining permit, the legal challenge continues, although slowly as the commission decides how to proceed. Dakota Resource Council also filed a state court lawsuit challenging the local county’s changes to land use zoning for the proposed plant. Oral arguments in the lawsuit are scheduled for July 13, 2009.
Update: March 2009
At the end of January 2009, Dakota Resource Council and local landowners filed a complaint with the North Dakota PSC challenging GTL Energy’s coal preparation plant planned near South Heart. The complaint asks the PSC to require a surface mining permit for the plant, requiring the plant to meet operating and reclamation standards, and to hold a public hearing. According to Plains Justice, the non-profit representing Dakota Resource Council, hundreds of coal processing plants across the country are regulated under surface mining law. GTL Energy’s response was due at the beginning of March, but it has yet to be posted on the Commission’s website.
Update: December 2008
The ND Department of Health has yet to receive an air permit application for the plant and doesn’t expect one for some time. At the ND Public Service Commission, South Heart Coal recently submitted a surface coal mine application for a mine that could supply coal to its proposed gasification plant, but has yet to follow up on its letter of intent to file a coal plant siting application filed in January 2008. To view the ND PSC docket, please visit its website and search under “South Heart.”
Update: October 2008
The Dakota Resource Council has asked the federal Office of Surface Mining to intervene in South Heart’s coal drying project, which would make briquettes out of the lignite coal found in North Dakota and Wyoming. North Dakota’s Public Service Commission has stated that the project doesn't need a coal mining permit, and Dakota Resource Council sent a letter to the federal Office of Surface Mining, asking federal regulators to intervene because the commission’s decision goes against federal law and rules.
Update: July 2008
In late April 2008, the Dakota Resource Council and local residents filed a state court lawsuit in the fight against the proposed South Heart plant, located just fifteen miles from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park boundary. The lawsuit challenges a rezoning decision by the county commission that is necessary if the plant is to be built.
Update: February 2008
In late January 2008, Great Northern Power Development and South Heart Coal sent a letter to the North Dakota Public Service Commission stating their intent to move forward with a proposal to build a $1.4 billion coal-to-gas plant and coal mine. Originally proposed as a coal-fired power plant, company officials began looking at making it a coal-to-gas plant about three years ago. If allowed to proceed, construction should begin in December 2009 and operations should begin in 2012.
Update: August 2007
South Heart recently withdrew its application for its proposed CFB plant and coal mine. But the fight isn't over yet - according to the ND Department of Air Quality, the company has discussed sending in a new application for a coal-to-gas plant in the same location. Stay tuned for more information.
Update: July 2007
Good News! Recent rumors suggest that South Heart Coal is abandoning its plans for the South Heart Power Project and will be withdrawing its permit-to-construct application in the near future.
Update: April 2007
Currently, South Heart Coal’s permit-to-construct application is still pending. This proposed coal-fired power plant is especially troubling given its location – thirty miles upwind from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park near Medora. The national park is subject to very strict air quality standards, which, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state has already violated by bringing too many sources of air pollution online. Please visit the North Dakota Department of Air Quality at http://www.health.state.nd.us/AQ/Notices.htm to track this proposed plant.
On August 18, 2005, South Heart Coal LLC, a subsidiary of Great Northern Power Development LP, filed an application with the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDH) for an air permit-to-construct for the South Heart Power Project. This project will develop a 500 megawatt, lignite-fired electric generating plant and lignite mine. The South Heart power project is scheduled to open between 2013 and 2015.
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