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PUC to discuss New Era wind project on June 20

ST. PAUL – As expected, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will discuss the New Era wind project during its June 20 meeting.At issue is the 78 megawatt project’s Certificate of Need and Site Permit.

Both state-mandated permits were issued in June 2011, but the 48-turbine project has been subjected to intense scrutiny during its unprecedented permitting process, which began in 2009. At the urging of citizen opposition, Goodhue County officials and legislators, the PUC in February moved to reopen both dockets to further develop the already extensive record.

The PUC tabled other issues that could also be roadblocks for the New Era project, including its designation as a community-based energy development (C-BED) and its avian and bat protection plan, among other things.

New Era has already spent $15 million seeking permits. The company has not responded to requests for comment since the PUC decision earlier this year, which opponents characterized as a significant blow to the project’s hopes of ever being constructed; wind officials had hoped to break ground on the project in 2010.

Peter Mastic, who bought the project from Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens in 2012 for an undisclosed sum, was dealt another setback last month when Xcel Energy filed paperwork with the PUC seeking to terminate its power purchase agreement with New Era due to unresolved defaults. If New Era does not voluntarily accept termination of the PPA, Xcel has said it will seek resolution through the court system.

The PUC meeting on June 20 is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. New Era is the final item on the agenda.