Federal Court Upholds CO Renewable Energy Standard

Remember the high-profile lawsuit against climate scientist Michael Mann? Yeah, well it should come as no surprise that the entity behind that frivolous lawsuit–the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (formerly American Tradition Institute)–is also responsible for filing a 2011 lawsuit claiming that Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) was unconstitutional.

Colorado Flag

The Washington-based EELI filed a lawsuit claiming CO’s RES violates the US Commerce Clause.  If you are looking for successful solar policies to target, then attacking Colorado’s RES is one of them.  In 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37, which required investor-owned utilities to obtain at least ten percent (10%) of the energy they sell from renewable energy sources by the year 2015 (this mandate has since been increased to thirty percent (30%) by the year 2020).  That act made Colorado the first state to adopt a Renewable Energy Standard by a vote of the people.

Because the electric grid that Colorado is tied to covers 11 states, EELI argued the renewable target limits out-of-state coal plants from selling electricity.  The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Judge Neil Gorsuch said in his unanimous decision that the standard did not meet the test of restraint of trade.

Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell attorney John Putnam argued on behalf of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for the Interwest Energy Alliance, with Will Allen of the Colorado Attorney General’s office, Solar Energy Industries Association attorney Neil Levine, Earthjustice attorneys Michael Freeman and Michael Hiatt, and Western Resource Advocates attorney Erin Overturf.

The Tenth Circuit’s decision upholding the Colorado RES is the first appellate court decision squarely addressing the constitutionality of this type of state law, and affirms the authority of state governments to adopt such laws.  And what is the impact of Colorado’s RES?  There are currently more than 387 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in Colorado, employing 4,200 people. $212 million was invested on solar installations in Colorado in 2014 alone.  The 412 MW of solar energy currently installed in Colorado ranks the state ninth in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 79,000 homes.

Now that’s a victory worth celebrating!

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