MCEA Victory: Judge rules Minnesota Power natural gas plant proposal isn't in public interest
By Carolyn Berninger, Clean Energy Associate
Utilities across the country need to replace aging coal-fired and nuclear power plants. Will they be replaced by clean renewable energy or more fossil fuels? At MCEA, our answer is clear: Minnesota needs to make a transition to clean renewable energy as fast as possible.
Last summer, Minnesota electric utility Minnesota Power announced plans to purchase half the power from a proposed natural gas power plant in Superior, Wisconsin. According to Minnesota Power, this $350 million purchase was necessary to meet future electricity demand and provide reliability as they implement additional wind and solar. Because this type of project requires approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Minnesota Power must prove that it would be a reasonable investment and that it is the least-cost option for society. Any utility wishing to build a new fossil fuel facility must also illustrate that a renewable energy alternative would not be in the public interest. MCEA regularly intervenes in this type of proceeding at the PUC to advocate for decisions that are good for the environment and the people of Minnesota.
On July 2, 2018, the Administrative Law Judge on this case determined that Minnesota Power did not meet its burden to show that its proposed gas plant is needed, reasonable, and consistent with the public interest. The judge agreed with MCEA and other intervenors that Minnesota Power did not sufficiently analyze alternatives to the gas plant, and that its long-term modeling was biased. For these reasons, the judge recommended that the PUC deny this proposal. This recommendation is not a binding decision, but the PUC will consider it as it makes its decision regarding the project this fall. We’ll keep you informed about the case as it progresses.
Opponents of Catalpa hog facility turn to MCEA staff to help with Environmental Impact Statement
By Kevin Lee, MCEA Senior Staff Attorney
It is all too easy to take clean drinking water for granted, especially for those of us whose homes are connected to vast urban water systems. But in many areas of the state, reliance on private wells means that clean drinking water is no sure thing. This is especially true in Southeastern Minnesota, where rolling hills are underlain by thin soils and bedrock so porous that whatever is applied to the land surface quickly finds its way into the groundwater underneath. In these areas of the state, drinking water is already at risk, typically from agricultural products applied to the land, like commercial fertilizer, pesticides, and manure. Nowhere is this more true than in Fillmore County, where up to 40% of private drinking water wells are already over the safe health limit for agricultural contaminants like nitrates.
That's why MCEA took action when a Iowa feedlot operator proposed to build a 5,000 hog feedlot in Fillmore County that would generate over 7 million gallons a year of liquid manure that would be applied, untreated, to croplands. Applying that amount of manure to the fields near the proposed feedlot would threaten the drinking water wells of nearby residents with contamination from nitrates, bacteria, viruses, and pharmaceuticals. MCEA has partnered with residents of the community and the Land Stewardship Project, an organization that has worked for decades to protect family farms from the threats of industrialized agriculture. Using its legal and technical resources, MCEA is representing this coalition in its efforts to ensure that the proposal's environmental impacts are fully studied and vetted in an administrative trial. MCEA is awaiting decisions from the Pollution Control Agency on these issues, so be sure to look for more news from us as this case moves forward.