Big Stone Power Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

Part of the
Global Coal Plant Tracker,
a Global Energy Monitor project.
Download full dataset
Report an error
Related coal trackers:

Big Stone Power Plant is an operating power station of at least 456-megawatts (MW) in Big Stone City, Grant, South Dakota, United States.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
Big Stone Power Plant Big Stone City, Grant, South Dakota, United States 45.3046, -96.5110 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

Loading map...

Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1: 45.3046111, -96.5110333

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating subbituminous 456 MW subcritical - -

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner Parent
Unit 1 Otter Tail Power Co [53.90%]; NorthWestern Energy - (SD) [23.40%]; Montana-Dakota Utilities Co [22.70%] Otter Tail Corp [53.90%]; NORTHWESTERN Corp [23.40%]; MDU Resources Group Inc [22.70%]

Project-level coal details

  • Coal source: Rawhide mine (peabody coal), eagle butte mine (black jewel)

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 3,784,492 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 11,986 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 14,681 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 150 lb.

Lawsuit against Big Stone I

In June of 2008 the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against Otter Tail Power, the owner and operator of Big Stone Power Plant (Big Stone I), accusing the company of violating the Clean Air Act as the company failed to install modern pollution controls when the facility was upgraded. In the summer of 2009 the suit was dismissed by a federal judge claiming the statute of limitations had expired. The Sierra Club then appealed the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Sierra Club had originally asked the judge to force the utility to install scrubbers to reduce pollution before they build, the now-abandoned, Big Stone II.[1] However, the Sierra Club's ultimate goal is to shut down Big Stone I in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.[2]

On August 12, 2010, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the Clean Air Act lawsuit against Otter Trail Power, saying the Sierra Club should have sued earlier. The Sierra Club in June 2008, saying the Big Stone plant violated the federal Clean Air Act by failing to obtain permits for modifications and exceeding emission limits. Otter Tail moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the group needed to sue within five years of the date of the last modifications, which were done in 2001. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case.[3]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Big Stone Power Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[4] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[5]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Big Stone Power Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 8 $62,000,000
Heart attacks 13 $1,400,000
Asthma attacks 140 $7,000
Hospital admissions 6 $140,000
Chronic bronchitis 5 $2,300,000
Asthma ER visits 9 $3,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that South Dakota, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[6] The report mentioned South Dakota's Big Stone Power Plant as a site that has groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[7]

Articles and Resources


Additional data

To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.