Bloomberg News

North Dakota Sues Minnesota Over Anti-Global Warming Measure

November 03, 2011

(Updates with Minnesota comment in 11th paragraph.)

Nov. 2 (Bloomberg) -- North Dakota sued Minnesota, claiming the neighboring state’s 2007 law limiting carbon emissions from electricity generated outside Minnesota and used within the state is unconstitutional.

“Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act has direct and serious consequences for North Dakota,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said today in a press statement announcing his filing with the federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota.

North Dakota power plants export most of their generated power to other states, including Minnesota, Stenehjem said. The Minnesota statute unconstitutionally interferes with his state’s energy production, the attorney general said. North Dakota seeks a court order invalidating the measure.

Signed by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty in May 2007, the Next Generation act was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting renewable energy sources and greater energy efficiency.

“The best time to have taken action on energy issues would’ve been 30 years ago. The second best time is right now,” Pawlenty said then in a press statement. “The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in Minnesota we are kick-starting the future by increasing our nation-leading per capita renewable fuel use, boosting cost saving measures and tackling greenhouse gas emissions.”

Imported Coal

Minnesota’s power plants generate about 60 percent of the state’s power relying on imported coal, while its Energy Act provides exceptions favoring Minnesota projects or businesses, Stenehjem said.

Drawing upon its lignite coal deposits, North Dakota has become “a vital and essential source of electricity” for Minnesota, according to the complaint.

The Next Generation act bars Minnesota’s import of power from any new, large energy facility that contributes statewide power-sector carbon emissions and prohibits long-term power- purchasing contracts that would have that effect, North Dakota alleged.

Those restrictions subject energy projects outside the state to “onerous regulatory burdens,” North Dakota claims. The case was filed on behalf of the state, the Lignite Energy Council trade association, the North American Coal Corp. and other entities.

Named Defendant

Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, deferred to the state’s Public Utilities Commission for comment on the North Dakota case. The commission is also a named defendant.

Dan Wolf, an assistant executive secretary speaking for the commission, declined to comment specifically on the litigation.

“As to Minnesota law, that is established by the Legislature and the governor, as reviewed by the courts,” he said in an e-mailed statement. “The commission has and will ensure that the public utilities under its jurisdiction comply with the requirements set by these policy makers.”

The case is North Dakota v. Swanson, 11cv3232, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (St. Paul).

--Editors: Glenn Holdcraft, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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