Xcel Energy, railroads settle Ashland contamination lawsuit

Associated Press

January 30, 2015

ASHLANDó Xcel Energy and two railroads have settled a lawsuit over contamination at the lakefront in Ashland.

Xcel says the Soo Line and Wisconsin Central have agreed to pay $10.5 million to help clean up contamination caused, in part, by a gas plant that operated near Chequamegon Bay from the late 1800s to the 1940s.

The Daily Press (http://bit.ly/1A1CGWW ) reports Soo Line owned the land and operated a railroad corridor at the site from at least the 1870s through 1987, when it was acquired by Wisconsin Central.

Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power says the settlement money is only a fraction of the total cleanup cost, estimated at $100 million.

"This settlement is another step to ensure that each entity responsible will pay its fair share of the cleanup costs," said Mark Stoering, president and CEO of Northern States Power-Wisconsin. "We look forward to continued discussions with the other parties responsible for costs at the site."

The city of Ashland and Ashland County were also named as defendants in the lawsuit, as was electrical contractor L.E. Meyers Co. The company operated the gas facility for a brief time.

City administrator Pete Mann said Ashland has been involved in settlement talks with Xcel for about a year. A trial is set to start April 27.

"I imagine it will continue right up until the eve of the trial," Mann said.

A settlement amount has come up in discussions between Xcel and Ashland, Mann said, but the city maintains that it has no liability in the cleanup case.

"Until Xcel starts realizing that, I guess there really is no point in talking about numbers," he said.