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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 14, 2006  

CONTACT: Leah Mohr, South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, (605) 773-3201                        

Public Utilities Commission approves Big Stone II permit

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioners Bob Sahr, Dusty Johnson and Gary Hanson today approved a siting permit, subject to several conditions, for the construction of the Big Stone II power plant near Milbank. The decision culminated a year-long process that included public hearings, expert testimony and numerous filings by the applicants, intervenors and PUC staff.

The commissioners made and voted on six separate motions prior to granting general approval of the Big Stone II siting permit. Each motion addressed requirements the co-owners must meet in the permitting, construction and operation phases of the proposed plant. Those conditions direct the applicant to implement several recommendations by a local review committee; obtain and comply with all federal, state and local permits; limit mercury emissions; comply with recommendations of the final Environmental Impact Statement decision; and evaluate water supply. The conditions also describe reports the applicant must submit to the PUC about the progress of the plant; demand-side management and renewable energy programs conducted by two of the plant co-owners, Otter Tail Power Company and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co.; mercury control efforts; and compliance with carbon dioxide regulations.

"This is a historic day for South Dakota," said PUC Chairman Bob Sahr after the commission's vote. "It's a critical fact this makes sense for the consumer. Without the addition of Big Stone II, consumers of the affected utilities may be left to purchase energy on the open market and rely on sources of energy that involve scare resources and are subject to more price fluctuations," Sahr commented.

Commissioner Dusty Johnson cited the potential for wind energy development that Big Stone II provides. "It will likely bring transmission lines with 1,000 megawatts of excess capacity that can be used by wind," he said. "It is enough excess capacity to carry more wind power than currently exists in all of Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska combined."

Commissioner Gary Hanson pointed to the positive influence the commission's action on Big Stone II will have. "There are a tremendous number of benefits from this plant. The region will experience economic benefits such as new jobs and additional tax revenue which will assure for a better quality of life for the citizens. The amendments, specifically those that address emissions, will provide significant safeguards to help prevent environmental degradation," Hanson remarked.

All three commissioners noted the environmental advantages Big Stone II brings to the operation of the current Big Stone power plant. Both plants will jointly use state-of-the-art pollution control devices scheduled to be installed during the construction of Big Stone II.

The application to construct the Big Stone II plant was submitted to the PUC by Otter Tail Power Company on behalf of themselves and six other co-owners: Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Great River Energy, Heartland Consumers Power District, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency and Western Minnesota Municipal Power Agency.

The commissioners deliberated for two weeks after a hearing June 26-29 where they heard testimony from the applicants, PUC staff, intervenors and their respective experts. The parties filed more than 140 exhibits during the hearing. On June 11, three days before the decision, the parties met to offer oral arguments before the commission.

Listen to an audio Web cast archive of the commission's decision. Go to www.puc.sd.gov, click on "Commission Actions" near the top of the page. Select Commission Meeting Archives 2006 then "July 14, 2006 Big Stone II decision."

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