Minnesota will not appeal North Dakota coal power suit

Source: By DON DAVIS, Pioneer Press • Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Minnesota will not appeal a federal court ruling that called unconstitutional a Minnesota law restricting importing electricity from coal-fired electric generating plants.

North Dakota filed the suit against the Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act, passed in 2007, and won in a federal district court. A federal appeals court panel in June agreed with the district court, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court the only opportunity for Minnesota to win.

But on Monday, the Minnesota Commerce Department and Public Utilities Commission announced the state will not appeal.

“Although we strongly disagree with the court’s ruling, Minnesota has made significant gains with strong energy and environmental initiatives other than the specific provision of the law at issue in this case,” the departments said in a statement. “This specific provision has not played a role in Minnesota’s efforts to reduce carbon pollution. Since the law was passed in 2007, the state has not had cause to enforce this provision, nor is it likely to in the future.”

The decision means that Minnesota utilities may buy electricity produced in North Dakota plants, where they generate power with locally mined coal.

Minnesota’s law, designed to reduce air pollution, also bans new coal-fired power plants in the state.

Earlier this summer, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem called the law “overreaching regulations.”

Stenehjem’s office said that if the Minnesota law were left in place, it would have prevented North Dakota utilities from providing power to a regional distribution system that sells to Minnesota utilities.

The three-judge 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that the Minnesota law affected all states that get North Dakota power. Much of North Dakota-produced electricity is sold in other states.