Published May 1, 2005 | May 2005 issue
Environmental groups protested the proposed use of funds for renewable energy to help pay for a coal project on the Iron Range.
The grant would amount to $10 million over five years for a coal gasification plant called the Mesaba Energy Project. The plant would turn coal into gas that could be used for fuel, removing some of coal's pollutants. Eventually, there would be two 530-megawatt plants on the Iron Range.
The money comes from a fund set up in 1994 as part of a compromise over storage of nuclear waste at the Prairie Island nuclear plant operated by Xcel Energy. The fund provides about $16 million a year for research into renewable energy.
Environmental groups said coal is by definition not a renewable fuel, so the funds should not support its use. However, proponents of the plant argued coal gasification is a new technology and qualifies for a grant under guideline revisions passed in 2003.