The Minnesota Supreme Court will review a Court of Appeals decision that said Minnesota regulators were wrong to approve a proposed natural gas power plant in Superior because they did not consider the plant's environmental impact.
The December decision said the state's Public Utilities Commission erred when it declined to consider impacts from Minnesota Power's proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center on air, water, land and other natural resources. The decision reversed the PUC's October 2018 approval of the project and sent it back to commission for further review.
Minnesota Power in January asked the Supreme Court to review the lower court's decision, arguing the order was an overreach of the state's environmental review process because the project is in Wisconsin and the court's decision would have wide impacts on other Minnesota businesses.
"We are pleased that the Minnesota Supreme Court has agreed to hear our petition about the Nemadji Trail Energy Center and render a decision in this important case," Minnesota Power spokesperson Amy Rutledge said in an emailed statement Tuesday evening.
In a news release, Kathryn Hoffman, CEO of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, argued state regulators are required by law to study the project's environmental and public health impact, pointing to the Court of Appeals' December decision and an administrative law judge who said in 2018 the plant was not needed or in the public interest.
"Minnesota law is clear that before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approves a new gas power plant it should study the environmental impact on Minnesotans and our climate," Hoffman said. "The evidence is clear that this gas power plant proposal is unnecessary and would be an economic burden on the people of northern Minnesota."
In addition to legal challenges in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the project still needs numerous permits before construction can begin.
Duluth-based Minnesota Power is planning to build the plant with La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative on a plot of land between Enbridge Energy's Superior terminal and the Nemadji River. The power plant will be capable of producing between 525 and 625 megawatts of power.