Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Duluth–based Minnesota Power, which has dropped their coal–based power production from 95 percent to 80 percent since 2000, says it's too soon to determine the extent of how President Obama's new rules will impact them. "[President Obama] basically laid out a time frame by which he expects the EPA to operate. We will work closely with our state and federal regulators—and stakeholders—to see what that means," said Minnesota Power Executive Vice President Dave McMillan. McMillan says the executive regulations will most likely come in the form of EPA carbon reduction limits: "They can't impose carbon taxes or pure carbon penalties. That generally takes legislative or Congressional action. Short of that, what they'll likely do is put some framework in place for trying to reduce the volume of carbon emissions over time." ...not an easy pill to swallow when Minnesota's constant demand for a reliable source of power for its taconite mills and paper plants keeps coal demand high. But McMillan says their "Energy Forward" proposal—which shifts their electricity production to one–third coal, natural gas, and renewable energy by 2020—will greatly reduce MN Power's carbon production, and penalties. One of those projects is the conversion of the Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes from coal to natural gas, which town residents say will keep jobs in the region. "It's a small community to start off with, and anything to keep jobs around here is a bonus. I got quite a few friends of mine that work there," said Hoyt Lakes resident Kevin Eckman. The largest project, however, is the addition of pollution–control equipment to the Boswell 4 coal plant in Cohasset to the tune of 350–million dollars. "We'll make sure that that plant is set to go from an environmental compliance standpoint for the next three–plus decades," said McMillan. While the carbon reduction focus so far is largely on power plants, McMillan says he hopes legislators will continue the trend in areas like transportation. McMillan says the executive carbon regulations will cost customers more, but that the company is working to ensure the costs won't create a competitive disadvantage for Northland businesses and industries. - Posted to the web by Billy Wagness