Coyote Station, Beulah, North Dakota
Coyote Station is a coal-burning power plant near Beulah, North Dakota. It is operated by Otter Tail Power Company, who also owns a majority share in the plant. Other owners include Montana-Dakota Utilities Company, Minnesota Power Cooperative Inc., and Northwestern Public Service Company. Coyote Station has been operating since 1981.
Coyote Station is powered by lignite, also known as brown coal or rosebud coal. The coal used by this plant is taken from the nearby Beulah Mine. Plants that burn lignite are often constructed near mines, as it is inefficient and potentially hazardous to transport it for long distances. Lignite is not considered a highly efficient source of energy, and can pose several environmental risks.
Lignite Use and Potential Hazards
Coal comes in many different forms; of all of these, lignite has the lowest energy content, making it a relatively inefficient source of energy. Like all forms of coal, lignite also releases certain pollutants when burned. These pollutants include:
- Fly ash, a byproduct of coal combustion that is released into the air and has been linked to health problems when inhaled or ingested through contaminated water
- Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which are greenhouse gases
- Sulfur dioxide, which contributes to acid rain
Lignite is also relatively volatile, which means that spontaneous combustion is a risk associated with its use. Every power plant that burns lignite must take many safety precautions to protect workers. For example, Coyote Station has received consistently high rankings for keepings its workers and the surrounding community safe.
Unfortunately, some safety measures have their own inherent dangers. For example, prior to 1987, many power plants used asbestos in insulation and safety equipment. This is because asbestos is highly resistant to flame, making it appear to offer useful protection to people working in plants. However, research has clearly established a link between asbestos and serious conditions like lung cancer and mesothelioma.
These conditions can take years to fully develop, which means that people continue to be diagnosed with them even though asbestos is no longer widely used. If you or a family member has been employed in a power plant, talk to your doctor about your risk for asbestos-related conditions,