Mesaba Energy Project

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{{#badges: CoalSwarm}} A special Minnesota law passed in 2003 committed Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy to buy 450 megawatts (MW) of power from Excelsior Energy’s proposed Mesaba Energy Project. However, Mesaba has drawn criticism from Xcel itself, as well as from business groups on the basis of its high projected costs.[1]

In April 2007, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission’s Administrative Law Judges recommended that the plant be denied a Power Purchase Agreement, as it is not a least-cost resource, nor an “innovative energy project” as defined by state law.[2]

In August, the state PUC affirmed this finding, arguing that the Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant is not in the public’s best interest; however, it ruled that Excelsior could meet its demands by introducing carbon capture mechanisms.[3] In late Oct. 2007, the Minnesota Department of Commerce posted draft environmental impact statements (EIS) for the plant.[4]

At a Nov. 27 public hearing to discuss the EIS in Taconite, numerous area residents expressed opposition to the plant.[5]

Written comments on the EIS were due by Jan. 11, 2008.[6] The Sierra Club submitted comments detailing the harmful effects of the plant's carbon dioxide and toxic air pollutant emissions. Also in January 2008, the Minnesota Court of Appeals dismissed the Excelsior's appeal of the PUC's findings from August 2007.[7]

In April 2008, Minnesota’s Public Utility Commission issued an order stating that Excelsior Energy needed to find a larger, state-wide market before the Mesaba unit could be considered financially viable for consumers. Excelsior is now awaiting the PUC’s decisions on several other issues that will determine whether or not the utility company will be able to move forward with its proposal.[7]</ref>

In August 2007, the MN PUC rejected the power purchase agreement for the Mesaba plant, and ordered Excelsior and Xcel to enter into negotiations to find a mutually beneficial solution. In September 2008, the Public Utilities Commission issued an order that by May 1, 2009, Excelsior and Xcel would no longer be legally bound to continue negotiations and the case would automatically close unless they filed an agreed upon power purchase agreement or a joint request for a time extension.[7])

The final Environmental Impact Statement for the plant was issued in November 2009.[8] The official three-volume EIS can be accessed here.

Coal plans abandoned

In April 2011, the Sierra Club reported that Excelsior Energy was seeking to convert its permits to allow it to build a conventional natural gas plant rather than a coal plant.[9]

Project Details

Sponsor: Excelsior Energy
Location: Itasca County, Minnesota
Capacity: 603 MW
Type: IGCC
Status: Company plans to build a conventional natural gas plant rather than a coal plant


Citizen Groups



  1. "Mesaba Energy Faces Uphill Fight",, February 10, 2007.
  2. "PUC Cools to Idea of 'Clean Coal’ Plant on Iron Range", Star Tribune on Minnesota Coal Gasification Plant Information Website, November 1, 2007.
  3. "State Agency Blocks Coal Power Plant", Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy website, August 3, 2007.
  4. "DEIS Now Available Online",Minnesota Coal Gasification Plant Informational Website], accessed January 2008.
  5. "Critics voice concerns at Iron Range power plant EIS meeting", Minnesota Public Radio, November 28, 2007.
  6. Minnesota Coal Gasification Plant Informational Website, accessed January 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed November 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  8. Mesaba Energy Project Final Environmental Impact Statement, Department of Energy, November 2009.
  9. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed February 2013. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)

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