Vote repeals a critical part of the Landmark 2007 Next Generation Energy Act

As expected, the Job Creation and Energy Affordability Committee passed HF 639 amending the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act.
One of the goals of the Next Generation Energy Act is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Central to that goal was a moratorium on coal fired electric energy plants. There were exceptions to the moratorium but they are not relevant to HF 639. Current law prohibits (1) construction of new coal fired plants in Minnesota, (2) importing electricity from new coal fired plants in other states, and (3) long-term agreements to purchase power from sources that would increase statewide carbon dioxide emissions. HF 639 repeals (2) and (3).
North Dakota sued Minnesota claiming that (2) and (3) violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The federal district court agreed with North Dakota and the matter is now on appeal to the Eighth Circuit.
Essentially the argument made by the author, Rep. Newberger (R), the Chair, Rep. Garofalo (R), and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Benjamin Gerber was that Minnesota should not spend any more money on the lawsuit. The Governor’s budget request for funding for the Attorney General was repeatedly cited. Note that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is supporting North Dakota in the law suit.
Bill Grant, Deputy Commissioner of Commerce, speaking in opposition to the bill, said that the appeal should go forward. The State’s interest, he said, was in not losing its ability to regulate in the area of global warming gases.
John Hottinger, representing the Sierra Club, spoke with pride about the 2007 Next Generation Energy Act and said, in effect, one judge should not be allowed to derail it. Surprisingly no other clean energy or environmental groups testified.
Rep. Garofalo said it was extremely unlikely that a new coal plant would be built but Rep. Sheldon Johnson (DFL) cited a statement from North Dakota saying that they wanted to do just that.
In his opening statement, Rep. Newberger said he was not there to discuss global warming. He repeated that theme as he stuck to the argument that the bill was just about saving money.
It is clear to me that this bill is about far more than saving some costs for legal work. The floor debate is likely to be much more interesting.