North Dakota Senator Senator John Hoeven poses with BNI miners in a dragline bucket.

Working with BNI Coal General Manager Mike Heger and Minnkota Power Cooperative CEO Mac McLennan, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven secured the regulatory approval needed for a new coal lease area at the Center mine. The operations can now move forward thanks to Hoeven’s efforts, which prevented $35 million in costs from being imposed on homeowners and businesses through higher electricity prices.

Hoeven worked to advance the approval of federal mine plans that enable BNI to develop the new section, preventing significant cost increases that would have burdened the company’s operations, as well as that of Minnkota Power Cooperative’s Milton R. Young Station.

The new plans were needed to allow mining of federal coal under a lease awarded in January 2021. Last year, Hoeven convened a meeting between Minnkota, BNI and Department of the Interior (DoI) officials to make the case for timely approvals of mine plans. The senator stressed the importance of preventing further energy price increases on American consumers and maintaining the affordability and reliability of the grid. The senator also secured a commitment from DoI Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau to expedite the plan’s review.

Without the approval, BNI and Minnkota would have needed to make and implement costly contingency plans to move the dragline and develop other portions of the mine. Securing approval not only prevented increased electricity prices across the region, it also supports the development of Project Tundra and the coal-fired electric industry of the future.

“Securing approval for the operations under BNI’s new coal lease area is about ensuring access to affordable and reliable baseload power for homes and businesses that remains available 24/7, regardless of weather conditions. In particular, preventing these $35 million in cost increases were key as we continue working to advance the coal-fired electric industry of the future through Project Tundra,” said Senator Hoeven. “We’ve put in place important tools, like 45Q and loan guarantees, to help coal-based projects get off the ground, and we continue working to make this technology a reality to promote U.S. energy security and ensure a continued role for coal in our nation’s energy mix.”

Project Tundra is a major carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) project being developed at the Milton R. Young Station, a 700-MW, coal-fired power plant that provides baseload electricity in North Dakota and Minnesota. The senator has worked for 15 years to establish North Dakota’s leadership in CCUS to help ensure the future of the state’s coal industry.