The future of a $700 million natural gas power plant proposed for Superior is now in the hands of Wisconsin regulators.
La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative and Duluth-based Minnesota Power submitted applications for a certificate of convenience and necessity with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin last week for the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, a 550-megawatt plant that companies want to build on a plot of land between Enbridge Energy Superior terminal and the Nemadji River.
According to Wisconsin law, the Public Service Commission must grant the certificate if the facility "satisfies the reasonable needs of the public for an adequate supply of electric energy," its "design and location or route is in the public interest" and "will not have undue adverse impact on other environmental values."
In October, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, under similar guidelines, voted 3-2 that the project was needed and in the public interest.
At the time, the two commissioners who voted against the project, Matt Schuerger and Katie Sieben, argued that Minnesota Power's models were biased to show the natural-gas plant was needed.
Dairyland Power Cooperative says that decision "affirmed the Nemadji Trail Energy Center as an essential, flexible and highly efficient natural gas facility that will support expanding renewable energy resources."
Similarly, Minnesota Power has said the project would support the company's growing solar and wind portfolio with natural-gas generated power "when the wind isn't blowing and sun isn't shining."
But opponents contend that the project is not needed, is costly and contributes to climate change with the extraction and burning of natural gas.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is also reviewing a number of environmental permits for the project.