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DOUGLAS, Wyo. (AP) – North American Power Group plans to announce within two weeks its new partner for the Two Elk Unit One power plant to be built southeast of Wright.

Daniel Yueh, vice president of the company, said construction was to begin this spring but has been postponed while a partner was sought to help fund the $300 million project.

He said North American will retain “significant” ownership of the plant. He declined to name the possible partner but did say it is a large electricity generator which is established in the West.

“Let’s just say that it is among the usual suspects,” he said.

Yueh addressed the Wyoming Counties for Responsible Energy Development group in Douglas on Thursday.

“The ground-breaking is anticlimactic. The real heavy lifting is happening right now,” he said.

Powder River Energy Corp. CEO Mike Easley said his company’s electricity provider, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, has been discussing possible partnerships for coal-fired power plants in the area.

But neither he nor Yueh would confirm whether the cooperative is negotiating with North American.

North American planned to break ground on the 300-megawatt, coal-fired Two Elk plant this spring but has delayed the project until this fall.

Yueh said that while North American has secured more than $120 million in tax-exempt development bonds, the project needs more investors. Another reason for the delay is a 90-day, last-minute renegotiation with Arch Coal’s Black Thunder Mine, he said.

One agreement is that Two Elk would burn about two-thirds of the mine’s waste coal, which now is reburied as part of the mine reclamation process. Yueh said North American investors are also insisting on a contract for some of the mine’s commercial, “sweet” coal.

Another agreement involves burying at the mine about 250,000 tons of coal ash from the power plant each year.

Meanwhile, North American plans to soon complete an agreement with Kennecott Energy to take partial ownership of the planned 500-megawatt Middle Bear power plant about 20 miles south of Gillette. He declined to say what the company’s ownership percentage will be, however.

Other negotiations have been with the U.S. Forest Service on easements for power lines across part of the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. And North American’s head contractor for the Two Elk project, Bechtel Corp., has begun taking bids from local companies to build temporary housing for the 700 or so workers that will be needed to build the plant.

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