Judges: Minnesota's Anti-Coal Law Is Unconstitutional

It’s somewhat ironic that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem got a big victory from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals the day after getting a primary day shellacking from his gubernatorial race opponent Doug Burgum.

But politics aside, this is a big deal. To catch you up, in 2007 the State of Minnesota created a law that banned the creation of new coal-fired power plants within its borders and also restricted the purchase of coal-fired power from out of state.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]In their ruling the found that Minnesota’s law would “unconstitutionally compel out-of-state cooperatives to conduct their out-of-state business according to Minnesota’s terms because they cannot ensure that out-of-state coal-generated electricity they inject into the MISO grid will not be used to serve their Minnesota members.”[/mks_pullquote]

Stenehjem filed suit against the latter provision of the law, arguing that it represented unconstitutional regulation of interstate commerce by a state. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress, and not the states, the authority to regulate interstate commerce.

The legal wrangling has drug on for years, but yesterday the 8th Circuit agreed with Stenehjem. In their ruling the found that Minnesota’s law would “unconstitutionally compel out-of-state cooperatives to conduct their out-of-state business according to Minnesota’s terms because they cannot ensure that out-of-state coal-generated electricity they inject into the MISO grid will not be used to serve their Minnesota members.”

That’s a big win, and not just for North Dakota. If the courts allowed Minnesota’s law to stand it would open a whole new front in the war on coal, allowing anti-coal state level politicians exert indirect regulatory control over not just coal-fired power production in other states but all manner of other sorts of industry and commerce.

But the fight isn’t necessarily over. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton says he’s considering appealing the law to the Supreme Court, however. Given how the ideological balance on the court hangs in the balance after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the resolution lays in the tumultuous politics of the Clinton versus Trump presidential election, there’s still a chance Minnesota could get their way.

Maybe a good motivator for right-thinking voters to hold their noses and vote for Trump? Who knows.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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