An electric cooperative’s decision in May to pull the plug on North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant ended months of rancor and speculation about the plant’s future.

The 40-year-old Coal Creek Station in Underwood, N.D., owned by Great River Energy will burn its last ton of lignite within two years unless a buyer emerges to keep it running.

While the announcement answered one looming question, it prompted another: What’s the fate of an associated 436-mile dedicated power line capable of moving 1,100 megawatts of power to the Midwest grid?

The line’s construction in the late 1970s was met with protests, sabotage and violent clashes. Today, the future of the power line — and whether it continues operating — embodies a more subdued but passionate debate over

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