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Wisconsin electric customers may have to pay to keep UP plant running

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Electric customers throughout Wisconsin might pay to keep a coal-fired power plant in Upper Michigan running. 

A regional transmission group has told We Energies it cannot close its plant at Presque Isle, because it provides reliable electricity for the region. 

We Energies wanted to shut the plant down in February after its largest customer, Cliffs Resources, chose another utility to provide cheaper power for two iron ore mines in the area. 

We Energies expects compensation from the Midwest Independent System Operator, which made the decision to keep the Presque Isle plant open. 

We Energies' spokesman Barry McNulty says the two are in discussions about that right now. The system operator has ruled that electric customers served by the American Transmission Company should pay for the plant. 

ATC now serves eastern Wisconsin, and is now developing power line projects in other parts of the state. 

Kira Loehr of the Citizens Utility Board says it's "horribly unfair" to make people in other parts of Wisconsin pay for a plant in the UP just because two mines switched utilities. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will have the final say.