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North Dakota sues Minnesota over 2007 clean energy law

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November 4, 2011

Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: On Wednesday, North Dakota joined with representatives of the state coal industry to sue Minnesota over a law that restricts Minnesota utilities from purchasing coal-based electricity from North Dakota. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, states the law is unconstitutional and seeks its permanent blockage.

The law, known as the Next Generation Energy Act, was passed in 2007 and signed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (D). The act was intended to be a measure to fight carbon dioxide pollution and global warming. Pawlenty touted the measure, stating, “The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in Minnesota we are kick-starting the future by increasing our nation-leading per capita renewable fuel use, boosting cost saving measures and tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”[1]

Under the law Minnesota utilities are essentially banned from importing power from new coal plants outside of the state while raising the cost of future purchases of coal-based power. However, since it makes exceptions for Minnesota coal projects, the lawsuit points out "the incoherence and arbitrariness of the (the law's) underlying policy aims."[2]

The suit claims the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, stating, "Electricity is an inherently interstate commodity, and the NGEA’s attempt to regulate its import in a discriminatory manner is unconstitutional."[3]

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