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N.D.'s AG wants change in Minn. carbon regulations

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N.D.'s AG wants change in Minn. carbon regulations
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty supports changing a state law that makes it difficult for North Dakota to sell electricity from new, coal-fueled power plants to Minnesota, a Pawlenty spokesman said Wednesday.

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Some predict Minnesota lawmakers will be less receptive to the idea, although bills have been introduced in that state's Legislature to repeal the restrictions on electricity imports.

"There's a lot of legislators who are very strongly attached to these laws," said Sen. Ellen Anderson, a St. Paul Democrat. "We think they're positioning our state to be leaders in a clean energy economy that's coming right around the corner."

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem met with Minnesota lawmakers and Pawlenty on Wednesday as part of an effort to gather support for changing a three-year-old Minnesota law that restricts North Dakota power imports.

Stenehjem is a member of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which sent a letter to Minnesota legislators last month arguing the law is an unconstitutional restriction on business between states.

Stenehjem, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring make up the commission, which oversees a state coal research fund.

Brian McClung, Pawlenty's deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mailed response to questions that Pawlenty agrees with the effort to change the law.

"Gov. Pawlenty hasn't reached an opinion on the merits of North Dakota's legal claims," McClung said in the e-mail, "but he continues to believe the language that concerns the North Dakota attorney general should be removed from Minnesota law."

North Dakota officials contend the matter is urgent because Great River Energy, a Maple Grove, Minn.-based supplier of electric power to rural cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is building a power plant near Spiritwood in east-central North Dakota. It would generate more than 100 megawatts of power, while supplying steam to a nearby barley-malting plant.

Stenehjem said his trip's purpose was to "initiate some friendly discussions," not to reinforce the state's legal arguments.

"We think this has a negative effect on the economy in Minnesota," Stenehjem said. "It will not really help Minnesota as it looks forward to its efforts at economic recovery."

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