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Federal judge strikes down part of Minnesota energy law

A federal judge on Friday struck down part of Minnesota’s landmark renewable energy law after North Dakota had sued, saying the law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, which passed in 2007 with bipartisan support, says in part that utilities may not import additional coal-generated electricity into the state unless they offset the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

North Dakota officials had challenged that part of the law in court, arguing that North Dakota utilities generate electricity for thousands of Minnesota customers. They said Minnesota’s law attempted to regulate interstate commerce and that only the federal government can regulate the wholesale energy market.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson agreed. “While the state of Minnesota’s goals in enacting [the law] may have been admirable, Minnesota has projected its legislation into other states and directly regulated commerce therein,” she wrote in a 48-page opinion.

Nelson ordered Minnesota officials to stop enforcing that part of the law.