Big Stone Power Plant

Big Stone Power Plant is a coal burning plant that is located about two miles from the city of the same name, which is on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota. It creates electricity for a wide area, including the two aforementioned states as well as North Dakota. Beginning operations in 1975, it is currently owned by three companies: the Northwestern Public Service Company, the Otter Tail Power Company and the Montana Dakota Utilities Company. Currently the plant only employs 75 staff members, making it a small power station, although there were efforts underway to construct a second plant near the original one.

The environmental impact of the Big Stone Power Plant has been under scrutiny, mainly as a result of the proposal to build the second plant nearby. Complaints relating to this proposal have been regularly filed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which eventually led to the new plant having its air permit revoked. Eventually, the whole project collapsed, though the customers in the area are still footing the bill for the development costs. Throughout this process the original plant has continued to function as normal.

Just like most of the other coal power plants built before the 1980s, the Big Stone Power Plant was likely constructed using asbestos as one of its main components, mainly due to the mineral’s ability to resist heat. Although asbestos protected buildings and machinery from high temperatures, it was later found that asbestos is extremely harmful to those who breathe it in regularly, often leading to various serious illnesses. These illnesses include asbestosis and mesothelioma, which may take twenty or more years to show in a patient. These health effects have been found in people who previously worked in power plants similar to Big Stone.

Due to current government restrictions on where asbestos can be used, chance of employees being exposed to these harmful asbestos particles has been minimized in recent years.  However, it may be too late for those who worked in these power plants in past decades.


Otter Tail Power Company

Steil, Mark. (January 23, 2009). “EPA raises objections to Big Stone II power plant.” Retrieved March 30, 2011 from MPR News.

Wetzel, Dale. (March 7, 2010). “Tied to a Big Stone: Shelved power plant may cost ratepayers millions.” Retrieved March 30, 2011 from the Bismarck Tribune.