To hear Ladd Erickson tell it, when Coal Creek Station was built the justification for constructing the power transmission line that services it across acres and acres of prime North Dakota farmland (to the consternation of many farmers at the time) was that the coal plant would generate economic activity.

Erickson is the State's Attorney for McLean County, which is home to Coal Creek, and he believes that if Great River Energy wants to shut down and deconstruct their coal power plant, then they ought to take down their power line too and return the land it's using to farmers.

"North Dakota has no economic interested in the power line," he said on this episode of Plain Talk.

Coal Creek is North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant. Great River Energy has said they want to find a buyer for the plant, but if they can't, they will shut it down in two years.

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"We hope they're sincere in this effort to sell the plant," Erickson told me, but added that he doesn't believe they can. It's a tough sell for another company to take over that power plant without access to Great River's transmission line.

That line serving Coal Creek is extremely valuable. It delivers to the Minnesota market and, if the coal plant is shut down, could be used to transport power generated by wind turbines, but Erickson doesn't believe Great River should get to do that.

"The power plant, the mine, and the power line is all one piece of infrastructure," he says, noting the project was regulated that way when it was built and should be treated that way now, too.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at