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Friday, March 13, 2009

South Dakota: 39th for Quality of Life, 2nd in Potential Coal Pollution

Mr. Epp notes some news that won't make the Tourism and State Development flyers: Forbes magazine just ranked South Dakota a disappointing 39th in its survey of state-by-state quality of life. Interestingly, in the six categories surveyed, South Dakota ranks highest (9th) in emotional health, which seems to suggest we're pretty good at looking at the bright side of things... or denial.

Likely to worsen our ranking next time around: coal pollution. A National Resources Defense Council study finds that of all the new coal plants being proposed around the country, South Dakota faces a potential increase in coal ash waste production that is second only to Texas. That puts us in the NRDC's "Filthy Fifteen," along with Texas, Florida, Nevada, and Montana. The Basin Electric NextGen plant near Selby* and Big Stone II in Grant County would generate 952,630 tons of coal ash and 994 tons of toxic metals each year.

To put that in perspective, our current coal plant, Big Stone I, generates just 97,300 tons of coal ash waste each year and 82 tons of toxic metals. In other words, adding these two new plants would ten-tuple our coal pollution.

As far as I can tell, those two high-polluting plants aren't even the biggest power generators: there appear to be several plants on the coming projects list that would generate more megawatts yet less waste. Hmmm....

Great Faces, Great Places... smiling through the soot.

Correction: Anon below catches my misidentification of Selby as a county, not a town. Sorry! I should know better—I've driven through that country several times!


  1. Ummmm, that's Selby, SD in Walworth County.

  2. Some additional facts...

    If Big Stone II is built, then the owners will add state-of-the-art pollution controls, that will be used for both plants, bringing the total pollution (except maybe for mercury) from BS I and BS II lower the current plant.

    If the technology succeeds, the NexGen plant will emit significantly less pollution than current coal plants and far fewer greenhouse gases than the combination of wind and natural gas (which would be the alternative generation).

    So, the current Big Stone plant plus wind/natural gas necessary for new resource needs equals more overall pollution/greenhouse gases than the combination of Big Stone I (with new pollution controls from the second plant), Big Stone II and NexGen.

  3. I don't know what tainted subjective study was performed, but I sure as hell can't think of 39 states where I would rather live.

  4. According to the survey, Utah ranks first and Wyoming ranks third! That surprised me until I realized that the populations of both states are disproportionately Mormon.

    Whatever else one might say about Mormons (and I have nothing bad to say), it's hard to overlook the fact that they're a generally happy lot. I suspect that's because of their faith in God and their strong sense of community.

    That said, Wyoming exploits its environment in ways that can be depressing to see. However, they also maintain a strong work ethic and a tax structure that's friendly to small and start-up businesses.

    I just bought two acres of land near Cody, Wyoming, partly as a hedge against the rampant inflation that's headed our way like a storm across the sea, and partly because, if South Dakota's small-business environment deteriorates, I'll have a refuge.

    Apparently, however, the tax structure of a state has little to do with the satisfaction of the citizenry; Hawaii (No. 2) is one of the most heavily taxed states, while Wyoming (No. 3) is one of the states with the lowest tax burden. Nor can unemployment be the major player; South Dakota (No. 39) is around 4 percent, right along with Utah (No. 1).

    The Forbes article points out that more populous states got more interviews, in proportion: "... the sample size for each state varied widely--with 37,000 Californians polled vs. 950 North Dakotans ..." Then the article goes on to say that "each was controlled to reflect population and demographics."

    Controlled? I'll bet!

  5. At one time, there was talk of making the Selby coal plant low carbon, but its air permit application to the state of South Dakota is for an old-fashioned dirty pulverized coal facility. The NextGen name is misleading.

  6. I'd hate to be paying for that electricity once Obama get's his carbon tax in.
    Coarse if you don't realize it we're all going to pay higher electric rates when that gets passed.

  7. Another plus for Cody: Their electricity comes from a dam. No carbon emissions there.


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