North Dakota’s governor and other senior elected officials threatened a lawsuit over Minnesota’s potential shift away from fossil fuels in a letter Tuesday to Gov. Tim Walz and other state officials.
Gov. Doug Burgum called on Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and lawmakers to amend currently-considered bills that would mandate 100% carbon-free energy by 2040, or face the “certainty of a lawsuit.”
The Minnesota House is debating a bill Wednesday that would require Minnesota utilities to use only carbon-free energy sources for electricity generation by 2040. This would also ban the state from importing energy from carbon sources. The House of Representatives passed a similar clean energy bill in 2021, but it died in the Senate. A new DFL majority in lawmakers has breathed new life into the bill, and Walz has said he will sign it.
However, Minnesota’s neighbor would be unhappy.
North Dakota is one of the top energy producing states and relies heavily on natural gas and coal power. On Tuesday, the North Dakota Industry Commission — which oversees the state’s utilities, industries and business projects and consists of the governor, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture — said the 2040 clean energy legislation would illegally regulate commerce in North Dakota.
“They could pass whatever legislation they want to regulate themselves,” Burgum said at the industry commission meeting. “We work well with Minnesota on a number of things, and if they make one small change, we can avoid the certainty of a lawsuit.”
The threat was first reported by the Fargo Forum. Burgum said during the meeting that the 2040 clean energy legislation mirrored a 2007 Minnesota law that banned the state from importing new coal-based energy sources.
The then Industry Commission filed a lawsuit against Minnesota, arguing that the coal law violated the US Constitution’s interstate commerce clause by attempting to usurp Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce. Federal courts ruled in North Dakota’s favour, negating the coal law.
The letter sent to Walz said the two clean energy bills of 2040 raise similar issues.
“Because our power grid is fully integrated and does not terminate at our state lines, both of these recently introduced bills, as written, would later impede North Dakota’s utilities,” the letter said.
North Dakota officials urged Walz in the letter to amend the bills to clarify that they apply only to power generation within Minnesota, not out of state.
House Majority Leader Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, is the lead author of the House Clean Energy Bill for 2040, and he was not immediately available to respond reformer Request for comments.
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