New gas not needed, judge rules

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On July 3, 2018, Administrative Law Judge Jeanne Cochran recommended that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission deny Minnesota Power’s petition to co-own a new natural gas power plant because Minnesota Power failed to show that the proposed plant would be in the public interest.

“The Administrative Law Judge got it right: She determined from the evidence that the gas plant is not needed or reasonable,” said J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy. “We submitted evidence that approval of a new fossil fuel plant would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Minnesota to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets set in state law. Instead, Fresh Energy urges Minnesota utilities to continue to move forward on the successful, clean energy path that responsibly addresses climate change.”

The question before Judge Cochran was whether to approve Minnesota Power’s ownership of half of a proposed 250 megawatt Nemadji Trail Energy Center, to be located in Superior, Wisconsin. Experts from both Fresh Energy and its clean energy partners, as well as experts for large industrial customers of Minnesota Power, submitted testimony that indicated Minnesota Power does not need the new energy generating capacity, that the new gas would be a waste of customer dollars, and that, instead, pursuing low cost, common-sense energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives would better serve customers.

Overall, Judge Cochran concluded that Minnesota Power does not need the proposed gas plant for reliability, that Minnesota Power’s claim that the plant is needed to add renewables is unfounded and that Minnesota Power failed to reasonably model and consider renewable and energy efficiency alternatives.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is expected to make the final decision on Minnesota Power’s petition this fall.

Read more about the decision in a recent story from Minnesota Public Radio.

As natural gas plants continue to be proposed across the Midwest, people look to Fresh Energy for our expertise on this issue. Read more about gas as a regional concern—and Fresh Energy’s work to prevent chunky, volatile, unnecessary investments in gas infrastructure—in this recent story from the national publication E&E News.