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Appeals court slams brakes on proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center

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SUPERIOR, WI -- The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a proposed natural gas power plant in Superior must be reviewed again before the project can move forward.

The state's Court of Appeals reversed the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's earlier ruling, saying the agency must conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for Minnesota Power's proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center.

JT Haines, Public Engagement Manager with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, is happy with the reversal.

"This court decision is a victory for Minnesota Power Customers especially. Also, anyone that is concerned with air and water pollution in our area. 350-million dollars is a lot of money to spend on old and dirty technology. So we think this is a great opportunity to look at alternatives that won't lock in decades of pollution for our area," Haines said.

Court officials say the MPUC will prepare the EAW before approving an affiliated-interest agreement if a petition demonstrates that significant environmental effects may be caused by the nature or location of the plant.

In October, the MPUC approved the plans for the $700 million natural gas plant, named the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, as part of a "Energy Forward" plan to support additional renewable energy and maintain safe and reliable power to the region.

However, environmental groups appealed the decision, citing cost and climate pollution.

The proposed plant is a combined effort between Minnesota Power and Dairyland Power.

According to court documents, officials say a mistake was made when the PUC denied the environmental assessment worksheet petition, and approved the affiliated-interest agreements without addressing the criteria that govern whether an EAW is necessary.

The Court stated they're reversing the decision, and says the commission needs to determine if the Nemadji Trail Energy Center may have the potential for significant environmental effects.

If the plant does have the potential for significant impacts, the court says an EAW must be prepared before reassessing whether to approve the affiliated-interest agreements.

Minnesota Power also released a statement on today's decision saying in part quote, " We are disappointed in this unprecedented decision because Minnesota environmental review has never been applied to a facility outside the state of Minnesota just as other state's policies shouldn't apply to Minnesota's environmental review."

Click here to read the full opinion.

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Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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