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ND again protests Minnesota's plan for carbon fees

BISMARCK--Minnesota's plan to charge North Dakota power plants for fees to offset costs of carbon dioxide emissions violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, the North Dakota Industrial Commission says in a letter to Minnesota regulators.

The Industrial Commission members approved the letter at to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday.

In the letter, the North Dakota officials also said that Minnesota is not giving North Dakota credit for the state's "unique options for managing carbon dioxide."

The Legislature this year has passed new North Dakota laws to allow for carbon dioxide storage underground. And some carbon dioxide is already being piped out of state and pumped underground to stimulate oil wells in Saskatchewan.

The PUC is in the process of establishing its 2009 estimates of the costs of future carbon dioxide regulations that should be added to the price of electricity generated for use in Minnesota.

In 2007, Minnesota estimated that the costs for carbon dioxide being emitted in 2012 would be between $4 per ton and $30 per ton and refused to exempt generation facilities outside the state, such as the coal-fired plants in North Dakota whose production goes to Minnesota.

This year, "North Dakota again objected to Minnesota's regulation of North Dakota facilities," the Industrial Commission wrote Tuesday. "We requested that (Minnesota) recommend that the (Public Utilities) Commission discontinue regulating North Dakota facilities or set the cost estimate for North Dakota facilities at $0 per ton."

Minnesota answered that it won't consider a zero cost alternative and that the carbon dioxide cost estimates this year will likely be between $9 per ton and $34 per ton. Those costs will be passed on to the Minnesota consumers of North Dakota electricity.

North Dakota's Industrial Commission is Gov. John Hoeven, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.