Superior Planning Commission votes against NTEC requests

City of Superior votes on the future of the NTEC power plant

The City of Superior has voted to move forward with rezoning the land needed to build the NTEC power plant on the Nemadji River.

Tensions were high at the Government Center in Superior as the Planning Commission met Wednesday afternoon. Two decisions on the agenda were requests submitted by Minnesota Power that pertained to the Nemadji Trail Energy Center.

“One is a rezoning of the property that Minnesota Power has owned for 20 years and is adjacent to several industrial facilities. The other is to vacate a street that hasn’t been developed by the city for over a century and essentially leads to nowhere,” said Minnesota Power/Allete Director of Corporate Communications Amy Rutledge. “We’re really at a point with this project that we are ready to begin construction. We’re really excited to do that. This is a project that is a nearly billion dollar investment in the city of Superior. It brings with it 350 construction jobs, 25 permanent jobs, along with a million dollars in new local revenue each year. So we are ready to begin construction on this plant that is so needed, especially now when so many coal units are retiring and we are seeing reliability challenges on the grid.”

Minnesota Power was given ten minutes to present to the commission. In the first part of their presentation, Vice President of Regulatory & Legislative Affairs Jennifer Cady addressed what she claimed to be misinformation about the project that has been causing “unnecessary anxiety and concern”. This included concerns about the health impact of a natural gas plant being built in the area, a major contention point for those opposed to the plan.

“I live just under a mile away from where the plant is proposed as the crow flies,” said Superior resident and League of Women Voters Douglas County Co-President Lee Sandok Baker. “We all know that science takes time, and then regulation takes time to catch up. The information is there. And we do not need this additional pollution added to our community, where we have people raising children, moving here and having babies. It’s just not what we need in our city if we want our city to flourish.”

After Cady spoke at the meeting, the attorney representing Minnesota Power talked to the planning commission about the requests on the agenda, saying that there was no lawful or reasonable reason for the city to say no. Additionally, according to the attorney, because there has been a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity granted for this project, the City of Superior does not have the power to undo the decision for the plant to be built.

A representative from the Neighbors Against NTEC then gave a presentation from their perspective on “NTEC’s failure to align with the goals of the city’s master plan. Talking points included the expected decrease of property values, the risk of industrial or pipeline accidents, the potential for gas leakage, and noise pollution.

The commission then opened the floor for public comment, which lasted for hours. Many citizens spoke from both sides of the issue. Numerous people held signs saying, “NO NTEC! We deserve a healthy breathable future” alongside signs saying, “We Support NTEC”.

Each member of the public had three minutes to speak to the commission. One person, from Neighbors Against NTEC, showed the room that the group had gotten 256 signatures on their petition. An NTEC supporter spoke about the message it would send future developers if the commission were to vote against the requests.

After four hours of debate, the commission voted against the requests. Minnesota Power says the project will go on even without this approval.

“We actually have the necessary approvals already to move forward with this project and if the requests that we are making these routine business requests are not approved the project partners certainly have various legal remedies that they could be seeking to address the needs of the project,” said Rutledge.