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Sherco Power Plant: The Wrong Project, for the Wrong Reasons, at a Big Cost

This commentary was originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on February 13, 2017. Written in conjunction with ILSR Research Associate, Karlee Weinmann.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers, including Gov. Mark Dayton, last week endorsed Xcel Energy’s plan to build a new natural gas plant in Becker, Minn. What they’ve left out is that this project is a multibillion-dollar boondoggle.

Fortunately, there’s still time to stop it.

Led by Xcel and labor groups, proponents say the plan will safeguard jobs lost when Xcel shutters coal-fired generators at the site in the mid-2020s. But the new facility is projected to employ just 150 workers, roughly half the number currently employed by the coal operations. It’s hardly worth the $1 billion upfront price tag and billions more in fuel costs borne by ratepayers — especially when there are cheaper ways to protect the workers and generate the power.

Last fall, when asked for their approval of Xcel’s proposed plant, regulators expressed deep skepticism that the proposed 786-MW gas facility is the most cost-effective option. Now, Xcel is trying to get around regulatory review and manipulate the economic fears of one Minnesota town — and the admirable desire of legislators to help — to obscure the costly reality of its proposal.

Read the full commentary on the Minneapolis Star Tribune.