Coal Creek Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Coal Creek Station is a 1,209.6-megawatt (MW) lignite coal-fired power station owned and operated by Great River Energy near Underwood, North Dakota.


The plant is located near the Missouri River between Underwood and Washburn in North Dakota.

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Plant Data

  • Owner: Great River Energy
  • Parent Company: Great River Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 1,209.6 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: Unit 1: 604.8 MW (1979), Unit 2: 604.8 MW (1980)
  • Location: 2875 3rd St. SW, Underwood, ND 58576
  • GPS Coordinates: 47.376944, -101.157222
  • Technology: Subcritical
  • Coal type: Lignite
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source: Falkirk Mine (Falkirk Mining Company)[1]
  • Number of Employees:
  • Unit Retirements: Both units will retire in the second half of 2022.

Plant Closure

In April 2020 it was reported that Great River Energy is considering closing down Coal Creek Station because it faces serious financial problems. Closure would impact hundreds of jobs in the area, at the plant and also at the nearby Falkirk Mine. According to the EIA 923 (2019), the mine supplied 7.5 million tons of lignite to only 2 power stations, 7.3 million to Coal Creek Station and 0.2 million tons to Spiritwood Industrial Park, which is also owned by Great River Energy. Great River Energy is looking into wind power as a replacement for the loss in production capacity using the free capacity on the plant power transmission lines to supply the wind power to the Minnesota markets.[2]

In May 2020, Great River Energy said it will shutter the plant in 2022. When the transformation is complete, Great River expects that two-thirds of its electricity will come from wind turbines.[3]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 11,094,477 tons [4]
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 32,084 tons [5]
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 24,428 tons [6]
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 12,489 tons[7]
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 859 pounds [8]

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.[9] The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma-related episodes and asthma-related emergency room visits, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, peneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal-fired power plants. Fine particle pollution is formed from a combination of soot, acid droplets, and metals formed from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and soot. Among those particles, the most dangerous are the smallest (smaller than 2.5 microns), 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. 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. The table below estimates the death and illness attributable to Coal Creek Station. 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.[10]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Coal Creek Station Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 51 $370,000,000
Heart attacks 79 $8,600,000
Asthma attacks 860 $45,000
Hospital admissions 37 $860,000
Chronic bronchitis 31 $14,000,000
Asthma ER visits 52 $19,000

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

Toxic Waste Data [11]

  • 2006 Arsenic Waste: 46,300 pounds
    • Air Release: 875 pounds
    • Land Release (Landfill/Sludge/Reuse): 45,425 pounds
  • 2006 Chromium Waste: 48,117 pounds
    • Air Release: 491 pounds
    • Land Release (Landfill/Sludge/Reuse): 47,626 pounds
  • Lead Waste: 33,709 pounds
    • Air Release: 490.6 pounds
    • Land Release (Landfill/Sludge/Reuse): 33,218.4
  • Nickel Waste: 42,744 pounds
    • Air Release: 403 pounds
    • Land Release (Landfill/Sludge/Reuse): 42,301

Coal Creek ranked 3rd on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[12] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[13]

Coal Creek Station ranked number 3 on the list, with 4,372,709 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[12]

Coal Creek eighth in 2009 mercury emissions

The 2011 Environmental Defense Fund report, "Mercury Alert: Cleaning up Coal Plants for Healthier Lives" found that 25 plants alone are responsible for nearly a third of all mercury emissions in the power sector, while providing only eight percent of U.S. electricity. The findings are based on 2009 U.S. Department of Energy data. The plant with the eighth highest mercury emissions was Coal Creek Station, releasing 862 lbs in 2009.[14]

Litigation and Controversy

  • September 12, 2005 Data [15]
    • Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station sold over 69,000 tons of fly ash in the month of August alone, a record for fly ash recycling.
    • Coal Creek Station is recognized for reusing a good portion of their fly ash. They produced 440,000 tons in 2004 and sold 400,000.
    • The EPA awarded Great River Energy with a first-place environmental achievement award.

Articles and Resources


  1. "EIA 923 March 2020" EIA 923 2020.
  2. "As co-op considers closing Coal Creek, concerns play out in zoning spat" Bismarck Tribune, April 19, 2020.
  3. Hughlett, Mike (May 7, 2020). "Minnesota's Great River Energy closing coal plant, switching to two-thirds wind power". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  4. "Carbon Monitoring For Action: Coal Creek Station Data". The Center for Global Development.
  5. "Criteria Air Pollutants: Coal Creek Station Data". Environmental Protection Agency.
  6. "Criteria Air Pollutants: Coal Creek Station Data". Environmental Protection Agency.
  7. "Criteria Air Pollutants: Coal Creek Station Data". Environmental Protection Agency.
  8. "Toxic Release Inventory: Coal Creek Station Data". Environmental Protection Agency.
  9. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  10. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  11. "Toxic Release Inventory: Coal Creek Station Data". Environmental Protection Agency.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  13. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  14. "Mercury Alert: Cleaning up Coal Plants for Healthier Lives" Environmental Defense Fund report, March 2011.
  15. "Fly Ash Sales Shatter Record". Business Wire. September 12, 2005.

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