A coalition of environmental groups urged the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court’s ruling, arguing the project is subject to review under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act because it would be built by a regulated Minnesota company for Minnesota customers and is so close to the state line — just 2 miles away from the border on a plot of land between Enbridge Energy’s Superior terminal and the Nemadji River.
“This is a very straightforward decision. When a Minnesota utility comes to the PUC and seeks approval that’s necessary for it to construct and operate a new power plant — a plant that will harm Minnesotans, Minnesota’s environment and will be ultimately paid for by Minnesota and Minnesota ratepayers — (the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act) applies,” Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy attorney Evan Mulholland said.
Minnesota Power is planning to build the 525-625 megawatt power plant with La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative. It said it will supplement its growing wind and solar portfolio and provide reliable energy “when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing” as the company moves away from its coal-fired plants.
While the plant is proposed for Wisconsin, and received Wisconsin regulators’ approval in January, it also had to move through Minnesota’s PUC because the power it would generate will be delivered to Minnesota Power’s customers in Minnesota.
Minnesota Power maintains the Court of Appeals decision overstates the PUC’s regulatory role.
“We completely agree they regulate our financial arrangements, our rates, other things,” Minnesota Power attorney David Moeller said. “But the commission’s authority stops at the border. It doesn’t have jurisdiction by the Legislature, as far as construction and operation of specific sites beyond the border.”
But environmentalists want the company to completely move away from any kind of fossil fuel, not replace coal with a different one like natural gas, which gives off less carbon dioxide but releases methane, another potent greenhouse gas.
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