Federal judge rules against law blocking coal power

A federal judge in St. Paul has struck down a Minnesota law banning the purchase of electricity from new coal-fired power plants

A federal judge has struck down a Minnesota law established in 2007 that essentially prohibits the purchase of electricity from new coal-fired power generation, reports the StarTribune. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled the law was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause by infringing on the business activities of out-of-state utilities. The commerce clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce.

In 2011, North Dakota along with several of the state's utility and coal companies sued Minnesota over its landmark 2007 Next Generation Energy Act, which it said blocked their ability to find buyers for electricity from existing coal-fired generating plants or to plan development of new facilities.

Judge Nelson’s ruling now removes Minnesota’s ability to enforce state restrictions on the purchase of electricity from new power plants, opening the door to Minnesota utilities to buying more coal-generated power from other states if upheld. State officials have already said they plan to appeal.

While the ruling is being hailed as a victory by North Dakota and its co-plaintiffs, one clean energy advocacy group is saying the win may not matter, according to the StarTribune.  Michael Nobel, executive director of Fresh Energy, a St. Paul clean energy advocacy group, was quick to point to Federal rules imposed by the Obama administration and proposed rules to be issued in June that already create a barrier to new and existing coal plants.

“They won their litigation, but the world is moving on from coal,” Noble said. “The net effect of this decision is no effect on the energy industry.”

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