Staff Directory 6370445

Mike Hughlett

Reporter | Energy
Phone: 612-673-7003

Mike Hughlett covers energy and other topics for the Star Tribune, where he has worked since 2010. Before that he was a reporter at newspapers in Chicago, St. Paul, New Orleans and Duluth.


Hughlett has primarily covered economics, business and workplace issues for 32 years at five newspapers. He grew up in Brooklyn Center.
Recent content from Mike Hughlett
Two administrative law judges ruled in favor of CenterPoint, the state’s largest natural gas provider, and other utilities in how much they can char

Judges: Minn. customers should bear full $660M in costs from Feb. 2021 storm

Two administrative law judges said CenterPoint Energy, Xcel and the state's other natural gas utilities acted "prudently" in their actions.
The Highwater Ethanol plant will be connected to a carbon dioxide pipeline if Summit Carbon Solutions gets approvals for its project.

Minnesota state utility panel says CO2 pipelines should be regulated

With two CO2 pipelines planned to cross Minnesota, there is a void in state regulations over whether they are hazardous. The Public Utilities Commission voted in favor of new rules on Thursday.
The Highwater Ethanol plant in Lamberton, Minn., is one of six Minnesota plants that would connect to Summit’s proposed carbon dioxide pipeline.

Minnesota utility regulators vote Thursday whether to regulate CO2 pipelines

Two of these multistate pipelines, which would carry carbon dioxide from ethanol plants, will have portions of their routes in Minnesota.
The regional grid operator has warned that there could be capacity problems if there is a big spike in demand. Shown are lines near Hampton along Rout

Midwest, including Minn., at greater risk for rolling blackouts

As the energy feeding the regional electricity grid changes from coal to more renewable, a big spike in demand could cause a power shortfall, the grid regulator says.
Conrad Wallace died at 100 on May 3.

World War II vet who died at 100 knew the meaning of hard work

Wallace Conrad's son, Curt, said whether his father was working farm fields, fighting in World War II or building homes, he worked his hardest.
High energy prices, leading to Minnesota gasoline prices of more than $4 a gallon, also led to higher oil and gas production in North Dakota, accordin

High oil prices spark North Dakota crude output — and motorists' fuel bills

North Dakota's oil production rose decently in March. Gasoline prices in Minnesota recently crossed the $4 barrier.
Flint Hills’ Pine Bend refinery in Rosemount, one of the Midwest’s largest oil refineries, is building a large solar plant to help power operation

Flint Hills moving forward with $75M solar project at its Rosemount refinery

The company is proceeding with the solar array, which will be one of the largest in Minnesota, despite the solar industry's current woes.
Great River Energy completed the sale of its Coal Creek power plant in North Dakota.

Great River completes $227M sale of North Dakota coal plant, transmission line

Maple Grove-based Great River will continue buying electricity from the plant under its new owner, Rainbow Energy Marketing.
3M lost another lawsuit verdict over its military earplugs.

3M loses latest earplug trial, now has nine defeats and six victories

Only one more bellwether trial is scheduled in massive litigation over allegations that 3M military earplugs were defective.
One of the crypto mining centers hosted by Eden Prairie-based Compute North is in Kearney, Neb. These centers need huge amounts of electricity to run.

Crypto boom a boon for electricity providers, but questionable for climate

Crypto mining centers, which consume huge amounts of electricity, are popping up in Minnesota and North Dakota. Critics say they enhance fossil fuel power production.
Xcel will be shutting down the coal plants in Becker.

Xcel quarterly profits rise nearly 5%, partly from rate increases

The electricity and gas provider also benefited from higher tax benefits over the same period a year ago.
The estimated cost of rebuilding the fire-damaged refinery in Superior, Wis., has risen to $1.2 billion, about three times the original estimate.

Costs to rebuild burned Superior oil refinery keep growing

The refinery's owner reports the price tag is now at $1.2 billion, up from the last estimate of $950 million and the original one of around $400 million.
The Northshore taconite processing and shipping facility in Silver Bay and the Babbitt mine will idle this spring due in part to a dispute over royalt

Cliffs maintains plans to idle Northshore Mining operations on Iron Range

The company will close the operations in Babbitt and Silver Bay on May 1.
North Dakota oil production was flat in February, and while the rig count has grown, production is not expected to grow quickly.

North Dakota oil production expected to grow only slightly this year

Production in February was flat, according to state data released Tuesday. Oil producers have told officials it is likely to grow 1 to 2%, probably in the third quarter.
While the Minnesota House and Senate agree on cushioning effects from natural disasters, they are far apart on funding for items such as weatherizatio

Minn. House, Senate support storm-related relief, but differ on other energy issues

Legislation in both chambers would cushion the blow of huge natural gas price spikes, while the House has ambitious energy-spending plans for items such as weatherization.
PFAS production at 3M’s plant in Belgium is causing a crimp in sales for the Maplewood-based multinational giant.

Rare PFAS factory shutdown in Belgium costs 3M

Belgian regulators ordered 3M to temporarily close the plant months ago and a fix to reopen it has proved elusive.
3M won the latest court case over its military earplugs.

3M wins latest earplug case, a turnaround from recent losses

In the largest ever U.S. mass tort, a Florida jury disagreed with plaintiff's claim that 3M military earplugs damaged her hearing.
3M lost a lawsuit Friday in regard to its military earplugs.

Another $50M award levied against 3M in earplug lawsuit

It is the third recent judgment of that size in bellwether cases regarding 3M military earplugs.
The PUC on Thursday approved Xcel’s plan to install electric vehicle charging stations in rural areas.

State regulators nix Xcel plan for ratepayer-funded electric vehicle rebates

The program would have provided up to $150 million in rebates for EV purchases. The Public Utilities Commission did approve a $5 million Xcel plan for rural EV fast chargers.
Independent driver Jamal Cotton made an impromptu repair to his trailer while filling up his tank in South St. Paul. The high diesel prices are making

High fuel costs threaten Minnesota economy

Any damage to consumers and businesses depends on how long oil prices remain elevated.
North Dakota oil output fell 5% in January from the previous month to 1.09 million barrels per day. Natural gas production fell 7%.

North Dakota producers not adding investment despite high oil prices

The U.S. oil industry has a newfound discipline keeping it from turning on the spigots. In North Dakota, production fell in January.
CenterPoint has settled its rate case with the state to receive a 4.7% increase in ratepayer revenue.

Under new settlement, CenterPoint's residential customers would get 3.9% increase in monthly bills

Commercial customers would see a larger increase in rates.
Hoses hung from an irrigation system in a wheat field during the summer 2021 harvest on a farm in Tersky village, near Stavropol, Russia.

Cargill scales back in Russia, continues food operations

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness is straddling the geopolitical fence as public pressure to withdraw from Russia grows. The agriculture behemoth is one of the largest non-Russian exporters of Russian wheat and owns a complex of mills south of Moscow.
Trials continue over whether 3M is liable for military members’ hearing loss due to the earplugs they wore in combat.

Costs mount for 3M as earplug trials drag on

Former and active military members have claimed six victories in product liability suits against 3M, while the company has won five in the largest mass tort in U.S. history.
The largest bill covered by a public safety escrow fund created by Enbridge for Line 3 construction policing was filed by the Department of Natural Re

DNR files $2.2M bill for policing during Enbridge Line 3 construction

The Department of Natural Resources is the largest recipient of PUC funds that pay for policing of Line 3 construction.
Minnesota corn growers could see a bigger market for their grain because of the war in Ukraine. Shown is the 2015 harvest at Far-Gaze Farms near North

War in Ukraine upends global ag markets as Minnesota farmers prepare for new crop

Farmers welcome rising wheat, corn and soybean prices, but they also face soaring energy and fertilizer costs.
Energy prices are on the rise, increasing bills for gasoline and heat.

Costs for gasoline, heating gas, electricity are all going up — here's why

The U.S. Consumer Price Index was up 7.5% in January — a 40-year record.
A Ukrainian serviceman pointed to the direction of the incoming shelling next to a building which was hit by a shell in Krymske, a village in eastern

Minnesotans with ties to Ukraine nervously eye situation

The Eastern European nation has been in limbo for weeks as Russia makes moves suggesting an invasion.
The planned Tamarack mine in Aitkin County would produce nickel as its primary metal and plans to capture carbon dioxide produced to store underground

Minnesota nickel mine project gets $6.2M infusion to study carbon storage

Effort will examine whether carbon dioxide sucked from air can be stored underground and effectively turned to rock.
Oil pump jacks are seen in Williston, N.D.

North Dakota now seen as slow-growth 'mature' oil market

So says state minerals director after meeting with top industry executives.
Shown are workers a year ago laying Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline along the Fond du Lac reservation in Cloquet, Minn.

Enbridge misses Minnesota hiring goals for Line 3, exceeds promised spending with Indigenous firms

However, the company met all goals in contracts with union locals serving Minnesota regarding the new pipeline.
The Coal Creek Power Station produces 1,100 megawatts at full capacity and is the largest power plant in North Dakota.

Great River reapproves coal plant and power line deal

Co-op members approve the sale to Rainbow Energy Marketing. Great River's largest member, Connexus, still voted against the deal.
Google says it hasn’t abandoned the idea of building a data center in Becker. Shown is the main Google campus in Mountain View, Calif.

To build or not to build in Becker: Google is still on the fence

Xcel recently acknowledged concerns over the $600 million project. Google says it hasn't abandoned the idea.
Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant at Red Wing.

State regulators approve Xcel plan that shifts from coal to nuclear energy, renewables

Company wants to close its coal plants by 2030, extend the life of its Monticello reactor by 10 years and add new solar and wind farms.
Highwater Ethanol in Lamberton is one of six Minnesota plants that would connect to a proposed pipeline to carry CO2 to underground storage in North D

Carbon dioxide pipelines for Minnesota fall into regulatory black hole

Two multibillion-dollar pipelines would ship CO2 produced by ethanol plants to other states for underground storage.
An iron ore project in Nashwauk that was first proposed in 2007 is still in limbo. Pictured is a file photo from 2014.

Court backs DNR in axing leases for beleaguered Nashwauk iron ore project

Judge rules state acted properly after Mesabi Metallics failed to put up $200 million by May 2021 deadline
Xcel CEO Bob Frenzel said the utility had a solid year.

Xcel fourth-quarter profits up 7%, mostly on tax benefits

Minnesota's largest utility company closed 2021 by meeting profit forecasts for 17th straight year.
Minnesota Power and Xcel Energy have proposed gas-fired power plants that will last 40 years, despite pledges from both utilities to produce all carbo

What will best keep Xcel's grid reliable in a pinch: Gas plants or batteries?

Xcel wants two new gas peaking plants, while clean power groups say the job can be done with grid batteries, as Minnesota's largest utility plans how to replace its coal plants in Becker.
Great River has made a deal for big wind farm in North Dakota.

Great River signs agreement to build big North Dakota wind farm

The project would replace some coal power transported to Minnesota in wake of controversial deal.
The final valuation of the estate of Prince, seen here performing at the 2007 Super Bowl, has been announced at $156.4 million.

It's final — Prince's estate is worth $156.4 million

As a nearly six-year probate case winds down, the process of distributing the star musician's wealth could begin in February.
North Dakota’s oil and gas production continues to slowly rise as the global energy market edges closer to balancing supply and demand.

North Dakota oil output jumps 4.4% in strong month

The state in November posted its highest oil production in nearly a year.
Minnesota Power headquarters at Lake Avenue and West Superior Street in Duluth.

State regulators order Minnesota Power to return nearly $4.5M to ratepayers

The Public Utilities Commission, agreeing with a ruling from an administrative law judge, reprimanded the Duluth-based utility for not properly maintaining a steam pipe at its Cohasset plant, causing a hazardous condition.
Enbridge has paid over $4.5 million, via a state account, for policing costs surrounding Line 3.

Enbridge-funded state account has paid over $4.5M for Line 3 policing

Meanwhile, several hundred cases are still pending against protestors charged with trespass and other crimes.
The planned Tamarack mine in Aitkin County would produce nickel as its primary metal, making it a rarity in the U.S. The project is a joint venture of

Proposed northern Minnesota nickel mine signs deal with Tesla

Under the deal, Tesla would buy about half of Tamarack Mine's projected production.
Great River Energy will manage a transmission line from Coal Creek power plant in North Dakota.

Great River deal to sell key power line to the Twin Cities gets regulatory OK

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission voted 5-0 to approve the sale in the last big hurdle for the controversial deal to offload its massive North Dakota coal plant.
Xcel Energy’s Westcott Plant in Inver Grove Heights is a peaking plant, meaning it switches on during an emergency to replenish the natural gas syst

State says Xcel's inoperable gas plants added tens of millions to February storm costs

The Minnesota Department Commerce is recommending that state utility regulators disallow a big portion of what Xcel wants to charge ratepayers to the historic gas costs.
Prince, shown in 2015, died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016 without a will.

Minnesota probate court set to discuss 'final distribution' of Prince estate in February

Other hurdles may arise, but the estate and IRS settled on a final valuation of the superstar's assets.
The Enbridge Energy terminal in Superior, Wis.

Enbridge says aggressive climate policies shortening life of its pipelines

Questions, including in recent regulatory filings, have been raised over how long the newly built Line 3 will be economically viable.
CenterPoint Energy was granted an interim rate increase in Minnesota but also had its repayment plan for last year’s megastorm in February revised.

In unusual move, Minn. utility regulators slash CenterPoint's rate request

Public Utilities Commission members said they could not ignore economic constraints on customers of the state's largest gas utility.
Brian Goldner, Talon Metals’ vice president of exploration, examined nickel-rich “drill core” in Tamarack, Minn.

Planned Minnesota high-grade nickel mine would be U.S. rarity

The Tamarack mine in Aitkin County, which would primarily produce nickel, will soon begin Minnesota's permitting process. It's likely to face a fight over environmental concerns.
Oil pump jacks in Williston, N.D.

Higher prices benefiting North Dakota oil industry

While production is down, the companies are making more because oil prices are at their highest since 2014.
3M headquarters in Maplewood.

3M loses case, wins another in legal war over its military earplugs

After seven bellwether trials in what could be the largest ever U.S. mass tort, plaintiffs have won four of seven cases heard.
3M corporate headquarters in Maplewood.

3M fails to overturn regulators' shutdown of PFAS production in Belgium

3M had argued for an "urgent" suspension of the ban put in place two weeks ago.
CenterPoint’s underground gas storage facility in Waterville, Minn. CenterPoint and Xcel both asked regulators for standard rate increases Monday, m

CenterPoint, Xcel file for gas rate increases of over 6%

Both utilities also offered alternative plans to soften the blow on Minnesota consumers as heating and other energy costs are already spiking.
3M headquarters in Maplewood.

3M PFAS production shut down in Belgium by environmental regulators

The Belgian regulators' edict to stop PFAS production came after recent blood samples of 800 people near the plant.
Assembled wind turbines that make up Xcel Energy’s Dakota Range wind farm outside Marvin, S.D.

Xcel unveils goal of carbon-neutral natural gas by 2050

Minnesota's largest utility already had a net-zero goal for electricity. Now, it's laying out a path to net out the carbon impact of natural gas consumption.
3M Combat Arms earplugs

3M prevails in latest trial involving military earplugs

There are about 10 bellwether cases in the complicated liability cases against 3M regarding the earplugs. Juries found for 3M in one other case and against the company in three of them.
Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant near Red Wing. It is conducting a clean hydrogen pilot project there.

Xcel looking at clean-energy hydrogen projects

The company's CEO noted the development on an earnings call; its profits were flat and missed analysts' forecasts.
3M corporate headquarters in Maplewood.

3M profits flatten, but beat Wall Street estimates

Like other big industrial companies, 3M is dealing with supply disruption and inflation.
A big portion of Xcel’s proposed rate increase would go toward building out transmission lines to connect to renewable power sources, the company sa

Xcel wants to increase home electricity bills by nearly 20%

Minnesota's largest electric utility filed its rate case Monday with the state Public Utilities Commission, which must approve it.
A fatal crash occurred Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. on Hwy. 100 near the Humboldt Avenue exit, just south of Interstate 694.

Fatal crash closes northbound Hwy. 100 in Brooklyn Center

A deadly automobile accident in Brooklyn Center shut down a stretch of northbound Hwy. 100 late Saturday night.The Minnesota State Patrol said it was investigating…
Canadian Pacific and USD Partners say new technology makes shipping oil safe enough it need not be categorized as a flammable hazardous cargo.

New Canadian railroad venture boosts number of oil trains in state

A new railway venture says technology makes the crude less flammable and hazardous — but critics have their doubts.
Oil pump jacks in Williston, N.D.

North Dakota oil production up nearly 3% in August

The state's oil and gas output rose 2.8 % in August, while high oil prices bode well for future.
Shown are oil pump jacks in Williston, N.D. Northern Oil and Gas is buying assets that include wells in North Dakota.

Northern Oil inks $154M deal for North Dakota oil properties

It's the third acquisition — for a total of $382.2 million — the company has made in the past nine months.
Big transmission lines run along Highway 52, across the farmland and seen Wednesday outside Hampton. ] DAVID JOLES • david.joles@startribune.com Wed

Upper Midwest renewable energy projects spark need for more power lines

The grid is getting congested as more wind and solar farms connect. A transmission buildout would be extensive — and expensive.
The Soo Green Line would run through Iowa and Illinois along the Canadian Pacific right of way.

St. Louis Park company behind novel $2.5B Soo Green Line underground power line project

The power line would send Midwest wind energy east but is facing delays as the company building it tries to get needed approvals for the project.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs

Latest trial over allegedly defective earplugs goes against 3M

A jury in Florida awarded a plaintiff $8.2 million in the fourth bellwether trial over 3M's Combat Arms earplugs.
The Minnesota portion of Enbridge Line 3 is “substantially” done and will go into service on Oct. 1.

Controversial Line 3 done; oil set to flow Friday, Enbridge says

The $3 billion pipeline, dogged by protests over fossil fuels, took nine months to build.
Leck Sengsoulichanh

Leck Sengsoulichanh, Minnesota immigrant who fought with U.S. forces in Laos, dies at 81

During the Vietnam War's "secret war" in Southeast Asia, Leck Sengsoulichanh fought with the Laotian army as it supported U.S. troops.For his efforts, he spent…
In the pouring rain, Chuck Broste, an archaeologist from the Minnesota Historical Society, spoke Monday to officials from the Public Utilities Commiss

Planned Minn. wind farm to be moved farther from Jeffers Petroglyphs site

Dakota bands and the Minnesota Historical Society have reached a settlement with an energy developer on the proximity of a wind farm to the Jeffers Petroglyphs.
Enbridge told regulators that while it has required coverage now for Line 3, the pipeline insurance market is tightening.

As insurers retreat from oil projects, Enbridge says coverage will be harder to get

Enbridge tells regulators that while it has required coverage now for Line 3, the pipeline insurance market is tightening.
A rig drilled three new wells in North Dakota.

North Dakota oil output drops as state falls in national crude production rankings

North Dakota oil production fell 5 % in July and has been lackluster compared to the new No. 2 oil state: New Mexico.
Minnesota DNR has ordered Enbridge to pay $3.32 million for piercing an aquifer and endangering a unique wetland.

DNR says Enbridge broke law, must pay over $3 million for construction mistake

The DNR says the company pierced an aquifer and endangered a unique wetland.
Crews worked on a section of the replacement Line 3.

DNR takes fight against novel Line 3 lawsuit to federal appeals court

A U.S. District Court earlier rejected the DNR's attempt to stop the suit — which names wild rice as a defendant —from proceeding in tribal court.
Great River Energy’s Coal Creek power plant in North Dakota.

PUC delays approval of Great River power line sale

The utility regulator wants more information from the buyer about how it would handle long-term decommissioning of the transmission line.