The project was approved. A PLA was signed. All systems were go. But now, some Superior politicians are trying to put on the brakes, and Labor is holding them accountable.
Superior Mayor Jim Paine and city councilors Ruth Ludwig, Jenny Van Sickle, Garner Moffat, and Nick Ledin have spoken out against the Nemadji Trail Energy Center, a $700 million project expected to provide $1 million a year to the City of Superior and Douglas County. They’ve written letters to the state opposing the project, which is projected to provide 350 union construction jobs and at least 20 full-time positions once operational.
At the beginning of January, Paine submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to reevaluate a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for the NTEC. This has left members of the Northern Wisconsin Building & Construction Trades Council increasingly frustrated, as Paine and other city officials had initially supported the project, and multiple regulatory agencies in two federal administrations — both Biden’s and Trump’s — have approved it.
As a result, the Superior Federation of Labor announced it has withdrawn its previous endorsements of Paine, Ludwig and Van Sickle. “This decision was not made lightly and involved considerable discussion,” said Dan Rose, president of the SFL, in a social media statement. “Ultimately, the SFL delegates, representing various local labor unions, voted unanimously to rescind the three endorsements. The mission of the Superior Federation of Labor, as a part of the AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of working families and lift up entire communities. The assembled delegates felt that, given their recent public comments and actions, the aforementioned individuals are no longer aligned with these values.”
In his letter, Paine said the previous decision of the PSC is no longer a “true representation of the facts.”
"The project, the site, the community, and the world have changed in meaningful ways since January of 2020. The final decision of the PSC is no longer a true representation of the facts surrounding the construction of NTEC," Paine wrote.
Paine said in his letter that the city is unlikely to approve the rezoning and street changes needed for the project.
That doesn’t fly with Kyle Bukovich, president of the NWBCTC, who wondered how the mayor can make those statements before the planning and zoning meeting has met. In addition, regulatory reviews indicate that NTEC will enable the retirement of coal-burning facilities and reduce carbon emissions, he said.
And finally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service announced in December the re-issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the project.
“It appears the mayor is pushing his own agenda trying to stop this project before hearing from the citizens and ultimately suppressing the voices of NTEC supporters. This is far from the first time that Mayor Paine has gone against the Building Trades and our 15 union construction trades who represent more than 1,000 union construction workers that reside in Superior." Bukovich said.
MN Power/ Allete, Dairyland Power, and Basin Electric along with the NWBCTC will be hosting an open house on January 23 at the Belgian Club, 3931 E Second St., in Superior. There will be one session from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a second from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The NWBCTC encourages people to write to the mayor and city councilors in support of the project. More than 4,000 letters have already been sent. Click on the attachment in this article to get a quick link to send a letter.