Wisconsin Regulators Approve Superior Natural Gas Plant

In a 2-1 vote, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin OK’d the Nemadji Trail Energy Center’s certificate of public convenience and necessity.

The approval moves Duluth-based Minnesota Power’s plan to build the plant with La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative forward 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.

“This is very significant for the (Nemadji Trail Energy Center) project in Superior,” Julie Pierce, Minnesota Power’s vice president of strategy and planning, told the News Tribune. “We received the approval from the Public Services Commission that this is the right site and it’s in the public interest for having it in Superior, Wisconsin.”

The companies argue the plant, which burns natural gas, would supplement more solar and wind power “when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing,” and that the plant is “renewable enabling.”

The project still needs to obtain permits from the city of Superior, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Army Corps of engineers.

Across the state border, the project faces further scrutiny from Minnesota regulators. Last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said the state’s Public Utilities Commission erred when it declined to consider potential impacts the Nemadji Trail Energy Center could have on air, water, land and other natural resources. The court reversed the agency’s October 2018 approval of the project and sent it back to the commission for further review.

Although the project is located in Wisconsin, it also had to move through Minnesota regulators because the power it would generate will be delivered to Minnesota Power’s customers in Minnesota.