Today American Tradition Institute’s Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, based upon evidence that the state’s law violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commerce Clause reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the federal government.
Specifically ATI’s complaint argues that because the state mandate provides economic benefits to Colorado’s renewable electricity generators that are not available to out-of-state power generators, and because the state imposes burdens on interstate electricity generators that are not balanced by the benefits to Colorado and its citizens, that the RES violates the Commerce Clause. The complaint also states that the law promotes renewable sources and discriminates against lower cost, more reliable energy generation from out of state suppliers, which is unconstitutional.
“Colorado’s renewable energy standards impose a burden on the interstate market for wholesale electricity,” said Kent Holsinger of Holsinger Law, LLC, ATI’s Denver-based counsel for the case. “Among other things, these state mandates discriminate against out-of-state electrical generation—no matter the source. This runs counter to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
The heart of the lawsuit addresses both the uneconomical and environmentally harmful nature of wind-generated energy. In addition to higher costs than traditional generating sources, wind energy creates more pollution because it requires coal or natural gas as backup generation when the wind either does not blow, or when it blows too hard and causes systems to shut off.
“Research shows that when wind energy is on the electrical grid, operators must use more coal and gas generation to keep the electrical power in balance,” said David Schnare, Esq. Ph.D., director of ATI’s Environmental Law Center. “This forces coal and gas plants to ‘cycle’ up and down to keep pace with when wind varies, which is extremely inefficient and dirty. Hard observations show that this cycling of coal and gas plants causes more air pollution and greenhouse gases than if wind was not connected to the grid.”
Also, Colorado residents do not realize how badly the RES statute affects their pocketbooks. William Yeatman, an energy policy analyst for the Competitiveness Enterprise Institute and ATI’s electricity rate expert, explained, “Unfortunately for Coloradans, their ratepayer protections are illusionary. The true RES costs are obfuscated with accounting gimmicks.