Petition Filed With Federal Government To Force Climate Study Or Deny Funding For Wisconsin Gas Plant

In the continued fight to prevent the unneeded and reckless construction of the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC) in Superior, Wisconsin, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, Clean Wisconsin, and Honor the Earth are calling on the Biden administration to keep its climate commitments and deny funding for the project.

NTEC is a joint venture between Minnesota Power and Dairyland Power in Wisconsin that is banking on a federal loan from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to help cover a significant portion of the construction costs of the gas plant.

Authorization of the loan requires an environmental assessment that in this case failed to analyze the impacts of 30 years of burning fossil fuels amid a climate crisis and received very little public comment.

MCEA, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth and Clean Wisconsin recently petitioned the RUS to conduct a supplemental assessment to account for the shockingly overlooked climate and air pollution impacts that would undoubtedly come from this project.

The loan has not yet been granted, meaning there is time to stop this from moving forward, and the RUS is now legally bound to respond to the petition before making a final decision on funding.

“The science is clear. We cannot both build new gas plants and stave off the worst impacts of climate change,” said Stephanie Fitzgerald, staff attorney for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. “Further, data and modeling show that NTEC is not needed to meet future energy demands: clean wind, solar, and storage can meet our needs for less money, while keeping our electric grid reliable.

“We cannot get to zero carbon if we continue to invest in fossil fuel,” said Katie Nekola, general counsel for Clean Wisconsin. “If we are serious about cutting carbon emissions, this project should not be built.”

“Investing in yet more fossil fuel infrastructure is out of step with both President Biden’s and the Wisconsin and Minnesota governors’ climate policy goals, and would be a giant step back for the Duluth-Superior region, which could be saddled with pollution from NTEC for decades,” said Elizabeth Ward, director of Sierra Club Wisconsin. “The government needs to get out of the business of supporting unsustainable and environmentally harmful fossil plants like NTEC.”

If Dairyland wants to secure financing to build a gas plant it should not come from our federal government that has made bold, sweeping and critical climate commitments. Regardless of the results of the petition for supplemental environmental study, the Biden-Harris administration should reject any loan application that subsidizes new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Environmental groups filed their petition July 23rd and it is now pending at the agency. A copy of the petition is available upon request.