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Judge strikes down part of Minnesota energy law

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm •  Published: April 18, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that part of a Minnesota law designed to promote the use of renewable energy is unconstitutional because it attempts to control business that takes place outside state borders — and she barred Minnesota officials from enforcing it.

The ruling was a victory for North Dakota officials and representatives of that state's coal industry, who sued Minnesota in 2011, claiming that the law unfairly blocked them from exporting electricity into its neighbor. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he strongly disagreed with the decision and the state will appeal.

"I will defend the state of Minnesota's right to protect the quality of the air our citizens breathe," Dayton said in a statement.

In a 48-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said part of Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 violates federal law by attempting to regulate interstate commerce.

Among other things, she found the law improperly requires non-Minnesota companies to seek approval from Minnesota authorities in order to do business in other states. She said because of that, the statute overreaches and if other states enacted similar laws, "it could lead to balkanization."

"If any or every state were to adopt similar legislation ... the current marketplace for electricity would come to a grinding halt," Nelson wrote.

Minnesota's law bars anyone from importing power from new, carbon dioxide-producing facilities in other states. It also bans long-term purchase agreements that would increase carbon dioxide emissions in Minnesota. Dayton said in his statement that the law doesn't prevent the construction of new power plants, but requires that any new emissions from those plants are offset by reductions in emissions from other plants.

"Prevailing winds will carry those toxic emissions directly into Minnesota. That shameful practice should not be permitted by either the state or federal government," Dayton said.

But Nelson wrote that because of the nature of the industry, and the way that electricity goes onto the grid, the North Dakota companies can't ensure that coal-generated electricity will stay in North Dakota and not flow into Minnesota.

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