- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

LINTON, N.D. (AP) - Some of the numbers reeled out during this week’s Emmons County Commission meeting were impressive in a place that unlike most counties to the west is still seeing a declining population.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative paid a visit to the courthouse in Linton to provide details of its very preliminary plans to build a mega-sized electric plant fueled from the Northern Borders natural gas pipeline that cuts through the county.

Basin’s spokesman Curt Pearson said several times during the presentation that the idea is still in early stages, though its acquisition department is out scouting two possible sites of more than 400 acres each to option for possible construction.

The five-man commission was politely attentive, though there was a visible reaction when Pearson said the project would cost upward of $600 million.

Pearson said the gas-driven plant with two turbines fed by natural gas and a third by steam from the first two would feed growing electrical demand in the Bakken and the region. The co-op likes Emmons County for a location because of two major transmission lines going through, the gas pipeline and access to water.

He said the co-op is looking at possibly constructing a plant capable of producing 675 megawatts of electricity, putting it on scale with the co-op’s largest coal-fired plant, Antelope Valley Station, located in Mercer County.

Commissioner Gary Hulm took the lead and said the county would put forth all necessary efforts to help.

“Is there anything we can do to influence you?” he asked. “If you need anything, let us know. We’ll do what we can to help out.”

Emmons County’s population is about 3,550, half what it was in the 1970s. It does have a fairly robust taxable valuation of $25 million, based primarily on growing land and crop production values, but little other than agriculture to add value.

The potential for $1.2 million in annual taxes, plus 30 family-sized operation jobs and 250-400 construction jobs was obviously attractive to a county that has been on the sidelines of the oil boom. There is potential for gas well development in Emmons County, with test wells showing early positive results, however.

Pearson said the project would require nearly two years of permitting, but no permits can be started without an option for land. To get the plant on line by 2019 means the co-op will have to move fairly aggressively to option land in the next six months in order to accommodate permit time and more than two years of construction.

For now, the co-op is looking for two sites somewhere between Linton and the Missouri River to triangulate with the power and gas lines - two because it needs at least one alternative to propose for the environmental study.

The meeting was attended by a few locals and representatives of the local electric co-op, KEM Electric, which is a power-buying member of Basin.

KEM’s manager Chris Baumgartner said the natural gas-fueled plant would give his members another power source and he also told the county that if it’s looking for an industrial partner of good repute, Basin wears a white hat.

“They keep in mind those long-term relationships that are important,” Baumgartner said.

He also said that siting a major industrial site in the midst of the county’s bucolic countryside would be a game-changer.

“This will change the countryside, no doubt about it,” Baumgartner said.

Charles Kurszewski, who lives west of Linton where some landowners have been contacted for land options, said he moved out where he lives 16 years ago to get away from it all.

He said he understands that the county’s population and declining school enrollments would make it difficult for the county to turn the project aside.

Kurszewski said it’s too early in the game to voice objections. “One man couldn’t stop it,” he said.

Pearson said Basin plans to be in regular contact with the county as the project proceeds, if indeed it does.

“This could change. This could not happen,” he said.

___

Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com


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