Taking lawmakers to coal plants and a coal mine in 2010

Taking lawmakers to coal plants and a coal mine in 2010

These South Dakota lawmakers are hopping a bus for a special treat. They’re about to ride North Dakota’s Energy Trail.

(Roger Solum): “The coal gasification plant really tweaks my curiosity, I’m looking forward to that, certainly.”

The group is touring the Antelope Valley Station, Great Plains Synfuels Plant and the Freedom Mine.

(Val Rausch): “We live in such a rural area and you don’t realize the magnitude of, like, a Basin. How big they are, where their footprint is, and as a cooperative, how many people benefit from the co-op.”

Val Rausch serves the district where Basin Electric’s Deer Creek Station is under construction… and where another power plant has been running for decades.

(Val Rausch): “The one I have in my backyard is 30 years old, scheduled to do some major upgrades with the emissions and the scrubbers. So I’m interested to look at and get the tour because I think they have already done that here in these power plants, the new technology, so it’ll be pretty interesting to compare the two and to see where the one in my backyard, where that’s headed. I think understanding is always a trump card.”

At Antelope Valley Station, the group learns how electricity is made…

(Daryl Hill): “Burn coal, that gives us heat. That heat boils water and makes steam. The steam drives the turbine, the turbine drives the generator.”

And then they get to see the plant in action.

(Daryl Hill): “It’s about 25, 28-hundred degrees in there. It’s hot, but I can still put my hand on the wall here.”

At the Freedom Mine, they get lots of pictures of a dragline in action… and at the Synfuels Plant, they marvel at the model that was used to build it.

(Ed Anderson): “It’s difficult to have a sense of scale until you’re standing at the base of the boiler, or you’re standing in the model room.”

South Dakota Statewide General Manager Ed Anderson says a tour like this has lasting effects.

(Ed Anderson): “Every time that I’ve done one of these, the legislators walk away from this process extremely impressed, and with a much better understanding of how the power generation process works.”

But, before the lawmakers got to tour the power plants, they stopped here at Basin Electric Headquarters, where they learned about the issues our members are facing.

“I’m just curious to know how that might work…”

The lawmakers heard from Basin Electric staff who explain how the cooperative develops generation, deals with transmission challenges, how the co-op looks financially, and how legislative representatives are tackling issues like climate change legislation.

(Nancy Turbak Berry): “I personally have a huge concern about the environment. I realize it’s very easy for people to cross their arms and start shaking their heads and act as if we should be offended with those people who want us to be responsible. But I honestly feel that we have to be responsible. The issue isn’t going to go away. So, I’m fascinated to learn about folks who are taking some initiative to try to be responsible environmentally.”

Nancy Turbak Berry is glad she accepted this invitation.

(Nancy Turbak Berry): “I’ve always been a little bit inclined, when issues about cooperatives came up, to only half listen because my particular district wasn’t immediately concerned. And I probably was just a little bit less interested in co-ops than I maybe should’ve been. I’m so impressed with what I learned about the way co-ops work and the responsible leadership that they’re taking, that I would say the most impressive thing to me is sort of the loyalty that you’ve been developing in me towards the co-op concept, and especially as applies to energy co-ops.”

Roger Solum says more lawmakers should take this tour.

(Roger Solum): “We have such a small group of people in our legislature, and I’m sure North Dakota is the same way, that really have, you can say, the technical expertise to be able to talk about the issue. So, a trip like this, I feel it’s part of my responsibility to take what we’ve learned here and share it with those who haven’t had the opportunity to come up here.”

Anderson says when he walks up to these lawmakers during the next session, he can explain less, and discuss the issues more.

(Ed Anderson): “I had two from my group and two from the other group that took the time and made the point to come up to me today and say, ‘That was huge. That was really important to me.’ So, success.”

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