Staff Directory 89522247

Mike Hughlett

Reporter | Energy
Phone: 612-673-7003
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

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
Enbridge Energy has already built a 14-mile stretch of Line 3 from the Minnesota line to its terminal in Superior, Wis., but the largest stretch of th

MPCA 'contested case' probe will delay Enbridge pipeline construction

The MPCA ruled the case "contested," which means it will take longer for regulators to make a decision on the permits needed to start building it.
Monish Patolawala, the new chief financial officer of 3M.

3M names GE Healthcare executive as chief financial officer

Monish Patolawala will take over for Nick Gangestad, who is retiring.
Enbridge is still awaiting approvals to build the Minnesota portion of a new pipeline the would carry oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wis. This

Enbridge likely to miss prime construction season for new Minnesota pipeline

Pollution regulators likely to weigh in on case for $2.6B Line 3 replacement.
Xcel's Sherco power plant in Becker. (GLEN STUBBE/Star Tribune)

Xcel dinged in study for using higher-cost coal power

The study released this week looks at the issue of "must-run" status for coal-fired power plants.
Long Prairie Packing, which is in Long Prairie, is the latest meatpacking plant in Minnesota with a COVID-19 outbreak.

Long Prairie Packing latest Minnesota meatpacking plant to have COVID-19 outbreak

It has sparked a more than sixfold increase in COVID-19 cases in Todd County over the past two weeks.
Xcel exploring renewable natural gas options

Xcel exploring renewable natural gas options

It's the state's secondnd large utility to consider pursuing sources.
The USDA has allowed chicken processors to boost production-line speeds in recent months, though the JBS plant in Cold Spring, shown here in a 2016 ph

Virus hit meat plants just as workers asked to speed up

Even as the outbreak began to force plants to temporarily close last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture continued granting permission to chicken processors to boost speeds by 25% on production lines.
Enbridge Energy has already built a 14-mile stretch of Line 3 from the Minnesota line to its terminal in Superior, Wis., but the Minnesota portion of

Opponents of Enbridge pipeline makeover press PUC to rethink the project

American Indian bands, environmental activists and a state agency cite collapsing energy production in Canada.
The legislation allocated $10 million this year and $5 million in 2021 to Solar Rewards, which subsidizes small solar projects for Xcel Energy custome

Legislation directs $46M to Prairie Island band for first-in-Minnesota energy project

The money would help the Indian community with a 'net zero' project including solar panels and a microgrid.
Hormel headquarters in Austin, Minn.

Hormel's sales surge but profit is squeezed on COVID-related costs

Executives said they expect costs to be about $30 million to $40 million above previous expectations for each of the next two quarters.
The sun set over the Bakken Oil Formation, behind an oil well near Williston, N.D., in September 2013.

With demand in the dumps, North Dakota oil fields grow quiet

The number of drilling rigs is reaching unprecedented lows in the fracking era as jobless claims spike.
Patty Keeling, with Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, led chants with a megaphone from inside her car parked outside the Pilgrim’s Pride plant in Cold S

Outbreak hits Pilgrim's Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring

As of Monday, state health workers had confirmed 194 COVID-19 cases among workers at the Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant — more than double the 83 cases just four days ago.
“The hardest part of all of this is having your daughter tell you not to cry,” said Jomari de Jesus of her 8-year-old daughter Estefany. De Jesus

Testing uneven, or nonexistent, at meatpacking plants with COVID-19 outbreaks

The only guidance from the federal government has been that meat processors should "consider" tests.
The state says it has opened a formal workplace safety investigation of JBS’ Worthington pork plant.

Minnesota has opened 10 formal COVID-related workplace-safety investigations

Hundreds of workers' comp claims also filed in state that are tied to COVID-19 outbreak.
Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear power plant at Red Wing.

Xcel Energy expects 'severe impact' in electricity sales this quarter because of coronavirus

Minnesota's largest utility plans to cut expenses to offset declines in revenue.
The Jennie-O plant in Melrose, Minn. COVID cases are surging in Stearns County, in large part due to three meat packing plants in the area.

COVID-19 outbreak in St. Cloud sparks fears of spreading virus

Increased testing among local processing plant workers has established the central Minnesota community as a COVID-19 hot zone.
Great River Energy will close the Coal Creek Power Station in North Dakota, saying it is losing too much money.

Great River Energy closing N.D. coal plant, will switch to mostly wind power

Maple Grove-based company will shutter Coal Creek Station several years early, an extraordinary move that underscores the waning cost competitiveness of coal in electricity production.
The Minnesota agricultural commissioner said 10,000 hogs a day are being euthanized in Minnesota.

In Minnesota, 10,000 pigs are being euthanized a day

Millions of chickens have been euthanized, too, with turkeys likely to follow suit.
The JBS Worthington Pork Plant, which closed on April 21 and partially reopened last week, will fully reopen on Wednesday. The plant was cleaned after

JBS to reopen Worthington pork plant, Smithfield opening in Sioux Falls

Worthington, Sioux Falls processors contending with high absenteeism.
Cargill is fighting union pushback on its plan to open a huge beef processing plant in Alberta.

Union fighting reopening of huge Cargill beef plant in Canada

The Alberta plant processes 40% of beef in Canada.
A small crew at the JBS Worthington Pork Plant began to euthanize pigs Wednesday without processing them into food products. The move is designed to h

JBS reopens Worthington plant to kill pigs without processing them

Minnesota's biggest pork processing plant reopened for grim duty: killing pigs without turning them into food. The job will help farmers who are contending with barns that are full and crowded by new pigs being born every day.
Jennie-O Turkey Store has temporarily closed another Minnesota turkey processing plant — this one in Melrose — after some employees were diagnosed

Jennie-O temporarily closes Melrose turkey processing plant

The plant is the third Jennie-O has closed in the past week in Minnesota.
The chicken-producing plant in Cold Spring, pictured in 2016 when it was owned by Gold’n Plump Poultry. It is now owned by Pilgrim’s Pride.

Pilgrim's Pride workers protest company's COVID-19 policies

The Monday walkout protested the lack of transparency around COVID-19 cases at the plant and preventive measures to protect workers. The company says it is doing all it can.
JBS plant in Worthington.

JBS plant in Worthington may reopen Wednesday to euthanize hogs

Excess pigs in the pork supply chain must be euthanized; few workers would return.
Farmer Greg Boerboom is warehousing hogs that would have gone to the closed Smithfield Farms plant in Sioux Falls until he can find another market. (E

Minn. farmers trying to save livelihoods, find markets for hogs

With processing plants closed because of COVID-19, farmers trying to avoid euthanizing them.
Jennie-O Turkey Store is temporarily closing its two Willmar plants. Shown is Jennie-O's headquarters.

Jennie-O closes 2 Willmar turkey plants after 14 workers test positive for virus

Hormel-owned Jennie-O Turkey Store "out of an abundance of caution" will temporarily close its two Willmar plants. It did not say for how long.
In this Tuesday, April 21, 2020 photo, vehicles are seen in the parking lot on the first day of a temporary shutdown at a Tyson Foods pork processing

Comfrey Farm pork plant in Windom closes for 2 days because of coronavirus

Also this week, the JBS plant in Worthington closed, as did a Tyson plant in Iowa.
Ben Smith prepared to pour denaturing agent into 7,000 gallons of industrial ethanol, to be used in hand sanitizer. It was produced at Al-Corn Clean F

Nearly 30% of ethanol plants idled, including four in Minnesota

Gasoline demand has dropped, but eased FDA rules have let one plant pivot to hand sanitizer.
Hormel headquarters in Austin.

Hormel Mexican food joint venture closes Texas plant because of COVID-19

Two other Hormel plants have been idled in the past week.
Workers departed the JBS Worthington pork plant donning face masks at the end of their shift Saturday afternoon.

JBS closes Worthington pork plant indefinitely

The Minnesota Department of Health recently found that 26 workers at the plant had been infected with COVID-19 and that five more relatives of employees had tested positive.
Two Inlets Resort owners James and Kayla Daigle, with their children Jameson and Hadley.

Business leaders say Walz's next move could make or break them

The Star Tribune last week interviewed decisionmakers in businesses around the state about when and how to start the next chapter of the crisis.
Edina and Minneapolis police gathered at the scene of a crash that followed an Edina police pursuit Thursday night near 49th Street and Xerxes Avenue

Dramatic crash in Minneapolis after police chase from Edina ends in two arrests

The chase began after a robbery was reported at a CVS pharmacy at 6905 S. York Av. Edina, police said.

Frontier Communications says bankruptcy won't affect Minnesota settlement

The company said it will honor an agreement with Minn. that calls for credits and refunds for customers.
The number of oil rigs in North Dakota are way down.

North Dakota oil companies have shed 2,000 jobs, could cut 6,000 more

State official says industry could see the number of rigs hit a low not seen since 2008 recession.
Gasoline prices have fallen as low as 89 cents per gallon at some Minnesota gas stations.

Production cut at Rosemount refinery; $1 gasoline prices in some places

The state's stay-at-home order has resulted in a major drop in demand.
Smithfield said it will close its giant pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., shown in a photo taken Wednesday, where health officials reported

Crucial processor of Minnesota pork closes over COVID-19

The closing of the Sioux Falls plant, which slaughters a sizable number of hogs from Minnesota and supplies meat throughout the country, shows the growing tension between public health and sustaining the food supply chain.
Xcel is selling the Mankato Energy Center to Southwest Generation after buying it from Southern Power three months ago.

Xcel selling Mankato gas plant for $30M more than it paid 3 months ago

Denver-based Southwest Generation will buy Mankato Energy Center for $680M.
Pipeline fate clouded: Enbridge Energy has already built a 14-mile stretch of Line 3 from the Minnesota line to its terminal in Superior, Wis., but th

Canada's oil-industry implosion could affect Enbridge's Minnesota pipeline project

The Canadian oil crisis opens the door for a last-ditch effort by opponents of the long-planned Line 3.
Cargill's headquarters in Minnetonka. Federal regulators say a Cargill livestock feed plant involved in a sizable aflatoxin-related recall last year v

Cargill feed plant violated food safety regulations, FDA says

The Minnetonka-based ag giant said is has corrected the problem at its North Carolina facility.
Gevo’s ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn.

Biofuel maker Gevo idles its Luverne, Minn., plant, terminates 30 employees

Markets for its products, especially ethanol, have fallen because of the coronavirus.
The frac sand mining industry in Minnesota and Wisconsin was already struggling before the coronavirus-related downturn made matters worse.

Minnesota, Wisconsin frac sand mines crushed by oil industry shifts

The Midwest's industry was already in upheaval when the new downturn struck.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has scheduled telephonic instead of in-person public comment sessions for proposed permits. (AP Photo/Jim Mone,

MPCA cancels public meetings, adds call-in town halls on Enbridge pipeline permits

Pollution Control Agency schedules telephone town hall meetings.
Spiritwood Station, a coal-fired power plant owned by Great River Energy in Spiritwood, N.D.

Great River Energy, Xcel planning to sequester critical workers if necessary

Great River already is at a "medium threat response level."
Chippewa Valley Ethanol in Benson, Minn.

Minnesota ethanol producer ramping up production of industrial alcohol used in sanitizers

A biofuels downturn has been exacerbated by the coronavirus shutdown.

One killed, one wounded in Eau Claire home invasion

It happened during a home invasion Friday night. No suspects have been found, police said.
Clean energy legislation is again on the table in Minnesota this spring.

Minnesota clean-energy legislation has one more obstacle this year with coronavirus

Lawmakers] are reprioritizing, State Capitol observers said.
This Feb. 10, 2016, file photo shows a former iron ore processing plant near Hoyt Lakes, Minn., that would become part of a proposed PolyMet copper-ni

Glencore putting up to $30M more in Minnesota copper-nickel mining project

It's money needed to continue fighting legal battles over its proposed copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.
Hi Hi Market and Gas in Lakeville had the lowest price in the Twin Cities metro on Wednesday morning, according to GasBuddy.com. (Shari L. Gross/Star

Gas prices are sinking in Twin Cities, and they're likely to go even lower

Crude prices at an 18-year low are translating to lower prices at the pump.
Oil production is likely to continue to be way down in North Dakota as the economy worsens. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

North Dakota expects big downturn in oil industry

Besides the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, other market factors are affecting the industry.
Minn. utilities temporarily stopping disconnects because of coronavirus

Minn. utilities temporarily stopping disconnects because of coronavirus

Xcel, CenterPoint and Minnesota Power have all notified customers.
Oil prices are plunging amid worries that an OPEC dispute will lead a virus-weakened economy to be awash in an oversupply of crude. Shown is the Shell

North Dakota, Canadian oil producers at disadvantage when crude prices are low

Distance from Gulf Coast raises transportation costs, could affect production.
A new study predicts Minnesota will need to make some hefty investments in utility infrastructure in the coming decade.

Minnesota utilities warn that big investments needed in region's electricity grid

Xcel, other electricity providers offered no estimates, but past projects have cost billions.
Shown is a large-scale solar installation in Massachusetts. Work on two Wisconsin projects has stalled because of delays caused by the coronavirus out

Virus delays solar projects in Wis.; Minn. developers worried

Asia, and particularly China, is the globe's primary supplier of solar cells and panels, and is also a major source of inverters and racking system components.
Witold Borowski

Witold Borowski, who witnessed much history, dies at 96

Borowski's life straddled Poland and the U.S., "integrated into the American community, but not forgetting the Polish part," his daughter said.
Jeff Wagner stood before Coal Creek Station, where conveyor belts, not trains, deliver coal from neighboring Falkirk Mining.

Even Great River's coal plant — next to a coal mine — is hurting financially

Great Rivers is exploring alternatives to its North Dakota site.
The MPCA has released a draft permit that would allow Enbridge to build a new pipeline across northern Minnesota.

MPCA approves draft permit for $2.6B Enbridge pipeline project

The agency will start a 30-day public comment period on March 2.
Prince left behind a $100 million fortune to six sibling heirs — one of whom has now died.

Death of Prince heir complicates estate settlement even more

The death of Prince's brother, along with his contested will, and deals signed with entertainment company Primary Wave, are raising new questions in the efforts to settle the musician's estate.
Bob Frenzel, currently Xcel's chief financial officer, will become president and chief operating officer on March 31.

Xcel takes step in succession plan by naming new chief operating officer

Bob Frenzel, currently chief financial officer, will assume the role on March 31.
North Dakota oil production is down and likely to weaken more, state officials say. Pictured is an oil field in the state from 2015.

Coronavirus effects on the oil industry likely to affect North Dakota

Production, already down some, could weaken in coming months, the state says.
Pioneer Press distribution trucks in St. Paul.

Pioneer Press owner buys 11 Minnesota community newspapers

MediaNews purchase involves Red Wing-based suburban and regional publications.
Provided photo

CenterPoint wants clean energy initiatives partly paid by ratepayers

The gas utility is lobbying for change in regulations that would add about $1 to the typical customer's monthly bill.
Sherco 3 is scheduled to cease operation in 2030. Planning for the move, co-owner with Xcel, Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, plans to shift

Southern Minnesota power generator commits to being 80% carbon-free by 2030

Power provider's plan to be 80% carbon-free linked to Sherco 3 closure.
PUC commissioners John Tuma, left, Katie Sieben, center, and Valerie Means (not pictured) voted in favor of the revised EIS. Matt Schuerger, right, vo

Minn. regulators sign off on environmental pipeline review

The Public Utilities Commission voted 3-1 to approve the environmental impact statement.
PUC commissioners from left, John Tuma, Katie Sieben and Matt Schuerger, listened in St. Paul to citizens and activists on opposing sides of the Line

Chasm between support, opposition of Enbridge's $2.6B proposed pipeline still wide

State regulators are holding hearings on the project again after the appellate court ruled an environmental review was flawed.
Xcel trucks heading out for maintenance.

Xcel quarterly profits up 35%, buoyed by rate increases

Fourth-quarter results released Thursday capped a strong year for the Minneapolis-based electric and gas company.
Xcel is reducing operations at a Texas coal plant because of water supply issues.

Moody's gives Xcel 'red flag' for water stress because of climate change in Southwest states

Over the next 10 to 20 years, the risks of heat and water "stress" will likely increase in parts of the U.S., said the report by Moody's Investors Service.
An ethanol plant next to a cornfield in Iowa, the nation's leader in ethanol production. Minnesota ranks fourth, behind Nebraska and Illinois.

Why ethanol endures as important market for Midwestern farmers

The biofuel's intended uses for energy independence and greenhouse gas reduction have become matters of debate. But no one questions its political clout, economic importance or staying power.
A coal train sat idle at Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County Generating Station in Becker, Minn. Xcel wants to operate its Sherco 2 coal generator part t

Coal plants may get reduced role at Xcel Energy

The state's largest utility is proposing to run two of its four coal generators just part time.
November saw a small drop in oil and gas production in North Dakota. The state expects output to be steady over the next few months.

For North Dakota oil production, it's 'steady as she goes'

It followed a record-setting October; natural gas output continued a steady increase.
State regulators Thursday unanimously approved Xcel Energy’s $650 million purchase of a gas-fired power plant in Mankato after the company restructu

Regulators clear way for Xcel Energy's $650 million Mankato power plant deal

The PUC said it's satisfied with a restructured plan, though the Attorney General's Office opposes it.

Minnesota Power gets Wisconsin OK to build natural gas power plant in Superior

The utility said it will ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling seen as potential setback for the plant.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has settled a deceptive advertising practices lawsuit against Comcast/Xfinity that will lead to several mill

Comcast agrees to $1.1M in refunds in Minnesota deceptive practices suit

Lawsuit by Minnesota attorney general lawsuit claimed that Comcast raised fees after wooing customers with low rates, tacked unwanted services and equipment onto bills and failed to send Visa gift cards offered in promotional deals.
State launches another investigation of Frontier Communications' billing, customer service

State launches another investigation of Frontier Communications' billing, customer service

Commerce settled another case with firm in October.
Equipment on the Essar Steel site in Nashwauk in 2014 before Essar halted the project and filed for bankruptcy in 2016.

Essar Steel Nashwauk project faces another deadline it is unlikely to meet

The state could pull its mineral lease but wants to move project forward.
Both oil and natural gas production hit a record in October in North Dakota.

North Dakota oil production for first time tops 1.5 million barrels per day

Natural gas also hit a high in October, but a goal to cut waste from flaring still hasn't been met.