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Underwood residents react to potential sale of Coal Creek Station

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 1:47 PM CDT
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UNDERWOOD, N.D. (KFYR) - Gov. Doug Burgum announced Thursday there’s interest from a potential buyer for the Coal Creek Station and transmission line.

About a year ago Great River Energy announced it would be closing by 2022. But now, there’s hope for the station to stay open.

Residents and business owners say it was like a sigh of relief went through the town when they heard the news of the sale.

But, they say the uncertainty still weighs heavy on them because their livelihoods depend on Coal Creek staying open.

Coal Creek station sits about 10 miles down the road from Grimsley’s Convenience store.

Inside, you’ll find Bobbi and Justin and Joe-- locals who say they rely on the plant to sustain their lives.

“They keep the towns alive,” said Underwood resident Bobbi Leishman.

Bobbi Leishman works at Grimsley’s while her husband is out at Falkirk Mine, which relies on Coal Creek Station as its sole customer.

“I’ve been trying to stay not worried for my husband’s sake, but I didn’t realize he was so stressed out until yesterday when they heard the news,” said Leishman.

Leishman’s boss, Justin Adolf, says his business might not survive without Coal Creek in operation.

“I’ve definitely been stressed out. You start looking at your own finances when one of the life lines of your area is dying or is going to die. You stress out. As a community, we’ve all been feeling the same stress,” said Grimsely’s owner Justin Adolf.

Adolf’s customer and fellow Underwood entrepreneur, Joe Fleischman, says his businesses have already taken a hit.

“Does the plant and the threat of the threat of the shutdown effect it? Yes, I feel it did because in my four years of experience, they threatened to close the plant, and all of a sudden I have no business for two months. The hunters left and no one else came back,” said Fleischman.

Great River Energy owns Coal Creek Station and announced Thursday it is in talks with a potential buyer.

Under the terms being discussed, the buyer would operate Coal Creek Station using Coal Creek employees that they hire.

Great River Energy would operate and maintain the HVDC system using existing Great River Energy transmission employees.

Locals say it was all they could talk about.

“It was a big relief,” said Leishman.

“There was excitement,” said Fleischman.

“In the long run, if this does go through, it’s going to save our community,” said Adolf.

While the town is buzzing, residents say the reality of uncertainty still looms, but there is also newfound hope.

Representatives at Coal Creek say they are not currently doing interviews, but we will keep you updated as more information becomes available on the sale.

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