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Power plant decisions delayed until March 1

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Power will get more time to decide the future of two of its older coal-fired power plants after action by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday in St. Paul.

The PUC board went on record saying they believe it's in everyone's best interest -- economically and environmentally -- to retire or repower the old plants at Taconite Harbor and Hoyt Lakes by the end of 2016.

But the commission stopped short of ordering that move, instead giving Minnesota Power until March 1 to come up with a plan for the power plants on which the board can take action.

Minnesota Power will include the future of the plants as part of its regular report -- called an integrated resource plan -- to the PUC.

Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman, said Thursday that the company "needed more time to look at the impacts on our reliability, our customers' rates ... and the socioeconomic impacts on the communities where these facilities are located."

Environmental groups have contended the two plants are too old and inefficient to be fitted with additional pollution-control equipment and instead should be shut down permanently or refitted to run on cleaner-burning natural gas.