Court upholds Colorado’s renewable energy standard

dgRuling bolsters similar laws in other states

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado’s renewable energy standard is perfectly legal and reasonable, a federal appeals court held this week, rejecting a nuisance challenge from a fringe right-wing group.

Under the standard, Colorado will get 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The standard also faced a challenge in the State Legislature this year, as Republicans in the senate sought to roll back the requirement.

The legal challenge from the Energy & Environment Legal Institute  claimed the standard discriminated against fossil fuel energy companies and forced outside states to comply with the standard. Read the appeals court ruling here: Energy & Environment Legal v. Epel.

Four conservation groups — Conservation Colorado Education Fund, Environment Colorado, Sierra Club, and The Wilderness Society, all represented by Earthjustice and Western Resource Advocates — intervened in the case to defend the standard.

“Colorado is a national leader on clean energy, thanks in large part to its ambitious renewable energy standard,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Hiatt. “We’re happy that the Court has rejected this attack by supporters of dirty fossil fuels.”

Colorado voters approved the renewable energy standard in 2004. It has, according to supporters, helped drive Colorado’s renewable energy economy.

When it filed the case, EELI stated that its goal was to “put wind energy on trial.” In today’s decision, the Tenth Circuit rejected EELI’s claims that the RES violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by regulating out‐of‐state businesses.

“The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recognized EELI’s legal arguments were ‘audacious’ and fundamentally flawed,” said Erin Overturf, energy attorney for Western Resource Advocates. “Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard, which spurs innovative clean energy solutions, does not burden commerce between the states. The Court therefore reaffirmed that the Renewable Energy Standard is constitutional.”

According to the conservation groups, the federal appeals court decision helps firm up the legal standing of renewable energy standards in other states, where oil and coal companies have also tried challenging the requirements.

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.

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