By Jessica Tritsch, Senior Campaign Representative, Beyond Coal Campaign
For more than two years, Sierra Club has been working to stop the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC) gas plant. Two utilities, Dairyland Power in Wisconsin and Minnesota Power in Minnesota, are asking regulators for permission to build a new $700 million fracked gas power plant in Superior. They want to double down on dirty fossil fuels, and they want Wisconsin and Minnesota families, schools, and businesses to pay for it. It’s more clear than ever that we need to be moving towards 100% clean energy for Minnesota & Wisconsin, NOT investing in fossil fuels.This power plant, the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC), would cost customers an estimated $700 million, even though expert studies show this gas plant is unnecessary and a waste of customer dollars. In fact, Dairyland Power and Minnesota Power could more cheaply meet customer needs with common-sense energy efficiency and renewable, home-grown energy.
Why is this important?
Fracked gas is risky for our health and environment. Generating power by burning fracked gas harms people’s health, causes asthma rates to go up, increases medical costs, and puts Wisconsin & Minnesota’s natural beauty at risk. Fracked gas has a negative impact on air and water quality where it is collected, and frequently creates vibrations in the earth’s crust, causing earthquakes.
Fracked gas is risky for our climate. The climate-disrupting impacts of methane and carbon dioxide emitted by extraction, transport, and burning contribute to the climate crisis and clearly point to the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Fracked gas is risky for customers. The cost of renewable energy from wind and solar power continues to drop – it now makes more financial sense to develop clean energy technologies. Investing in renewables creates sustainable, family-supporting jobs.
You may remember that last year, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved the proposed gas plant despite opposition from customers, clean energy groups, and large industrial customers. The Minnesota PUC voted 3-2 to disregard an administrative law judge’s recommendation that the Commission rule against the proposed plant, and then rejected the clean energy groups’ request to reconsider the decision. Since then, Sierra Club, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Union of Concerned Scientists appealed the decision, as did Honor the Earth. On October 10th, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the appeal. We raised concerns that there was no environmental impact studies done before the MN PUC made its decision and argued that the MN PUC ignored evidence that clean renewable energy and efficiency measures can meet electricity needs.
On the same day as the appeal, Friends of the Climate, a group of high school and college students in Duluth along with students in Superior held a press conference in Duluth opposing the plant. Students called to protect their futures and not build new fossil fuel plants in the midst of a climate crisis. “Our future is at stake, which is why we’ve joined this case to advocate for young people,” said Izzy Laderman of Friends of the Climate.“ Locking in decades of pollution when we need immediate action to avoid a climate disaster is a terrible idea.” Click here to hear from students about why they oppose this plant.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals now has 90 days to issue its decision – we’re hoping to hear something in early January.
The proposed gas plant also has to go through an approval process in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin PublicService Commission (PSC) is reviewing the proposal – they are accepting public comments through October 29th and will be holding two public hearings and one hearing for parties involved in the decision on October 28th & 29th.
Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) Public Hearings, Belgian Club 3931 East 2nd Street Superior, WI
- Monday, October 28, 6:00 p.m. (Public Hearing – Opportunity to Speak)
- Tuesday, October 29, 2:00 p.m. (Public Hearing – Opportunity to Speak)
- Tuesday, October 29, 10:00 a.m. (Party Hearing – Public can attend but no opportunity to speak)
Sierra Club and other groups will raise concerns about the environmental impacts of the proposed plants, especially as the WI PSC decided not to consider the full scope of climate impacts. Others, including the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, also oppose the proposed plant, raising concerns about the impact on local wetlands and the larger climate. In this process, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has raised concerns about impacts to groundwater supply due to the large amount of water needed to operate the plant.
It is critical that folks in Wisconsin and Minnesota speak out against this fracked gas plant. Visit sc.org/TwinPorts to sign our petition and sign up to attend one of the public hearings. And let the Wisconsin Public Service Commission know why you oppose this proposed plant.
A decision is expected in Wisconsin late this year or early next year. In the meantime, people on both sides of the state line will be calling on decision makers to reject this proposed fracked gas plant.