NOTE TO READERS: Midwest Energy News is back after a holiday break. Today’s digest includes the top stories from the past two weeks.

SOLAR: A judge in Minnesota determines that solar will be a better deal than natural gas as Xcel Energy seeks to expand its generating capacity, the state’s PUC will still have final say over the plan. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

ALSO: Wall Street is bullish on solar power, a Minneapolis church unveils the city’s largest solar array, and Iowa has nearly reached its cap on solar tax credits. (New York Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Cedar Rapids Gazette)

***SPONSORED LINK: Register today for the Midwest’s largest energy efficiency event, the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, taking place January 14-16 in Chicago. Use Code MWEN25off for $25 off just for Midwest Energy News readers.***

OIL: Federal regulators issue a warning on the safety of Bakken crude after an oil train explosion in North Dakota, and Michigan officials say it could be years before the full impact of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill is known. (Associated Press)

• Regulators in Pennsylvania have confirmed more than 100 cases of drilling-related water well contamination, as information from other states remains inconsistent. (Associated Press)
On-the-job deaths are spiking in oil fields. (NPR)
Production rises in Ohio’s Utica Shale as state regulators work to finalize rules for drilling and wastewater recycling. (Columbus Dispatch)
• Protesters erect a mock drilling rig in Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s yard. (Chicago Tribune)
• Activists in Youngstown, Ohio say they’ll try a third time to get a fracking ban on the ballot. (Voungstown Vindicator)

NUCLEAR: A Nebraska nuclear plant is operating again after being shut down since 2011, ratepayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars in repair cost overruns. (Omaha World-Herald)

WIND: The production tax credit expired at the end of 2013, but backers still hope it will be revived this year; a utility announces an agreement to purchase power from a new South Dakota wind farm, developers pull the plug on another southeast Minnesota wind farm, and eight ways wind developers are working to prevent bird deaths. (Houston Chronicle, Associated Press, Rochester Post-Bulletin, Grist)

COAL: The Sierra Club appeals a decision allowing five Illinois coal plants to delay pollution controls, and Wisconsin regulators approve $130 million in coal plant upgrades. (Crain’s Chicago Business, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

OHIO: A spokesperson for a mysterious clean-energy ballot measure in Ohio says it is “citizen driven,” but won’t reveal who those citizens are; Ohio’s top regulator won’t say whether he will seek reappointment; and why American Electric Power is shifting its focus from generation to transmission. (Toledo Blade, Columbus Dispatch)

EFFICIENCY: Home electricity consumption has fallen to 2001 levels. (Associated Press)

COMMENTARY: What “60 Minutes” got right and wrong in its story last night on the cleantech industry. (GigaOM)

Ken is the director of the Energy News Network at Fresh Energy and is a founding editor of both Midwest Energy News and Southeast Energy News. Prior to joining Fresh Energy, he was the managing editor for online news at Minnesota Public Radio. He started his journalism career in 2002 as a copy editor for the Duluth News Tribune before spending five years at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a copy editor, online producer, features editor and night city editor. A Nebraska native, Ken has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree from the University of Oregon. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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