Rumblings of Another Attack on AB 32

Texas - more than a little interested in California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s proof positive conferences put on by the Minnesota Rural Electric Association are can’t-miss events. Mark Schapiro of California Watch attended last month, and got a scoop (and I’m not talking about a scoop of Minnesota’s famed butter.)

Schapiro learned the attorneys general of Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota are preparing to sue California if the golden state’s landmark law limiting greenhouse gas emissions survives a challenge at the ballot box this November from Proposition 23.

The grounds? AB 32 interferes with interstate commerce, according to Wayne Stenehjem, attorney general of North Dakota (pop. 642,200), giving new meaning to old phrase “the long arm of the law.”

“We are going to test the limits of how much you can constrain interstate commerce in the name of climate change,” Stenehjem told Schapiro.

Stenehjem has thought about this before. North Dakota supplies 60% of Minnesota’s energy, much of it from a massive lignite coal mine. Shortly after Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed a law mandating a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2012 and an 80% reduction by 2050, the North Dakota legislature appropriated $500,000 to finance preparation of a legal challenge by Stenehjem.

Now, California draws in 30 percent of its power from across state lines, mostly from states in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest. So would the AGs from Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota have standing? Too soon to tell. They haven’t filed a lawsuit yet. They’re waiting to see what happens in November.

  • http://www.ag.nd.gov Liz Brocker, Public Information Officer, ND Office of Attorney General

    There is a media report that indicates North Dakota is contemplating litigation against the State of California regarding legislation in that state relating to the regulation of greenhouse gases. While North Dakota is considering litigation against the state of Minnesota due to legislation enacted there that seeks to restrict importation into that state of coal-generated electricity, and is also engaged in four other law suits against the Environmental Protection Agency on several grounds relating to the regulation of greenhouse gases, North Dakota is not currently contemplating litigation against the State of California.

    • Craig Miller

      Mark Schapiro, who wrote the original story for California Watch replies:

      My notes and recollection of my meeting with Stenehjem concord on most levels with the Attorney General’s — other than the precise subject matter of our talk. We met after a speech he delivered at the annual conference of the Minnesota Rural Electric Association, which had also invited me to speak on questions I raised about the carbon offset system (in an article published in Harpers magazine last February.) After his speech and before the lunch, I introduced myself as a journalist from California. I was interested in some of the legal issues he raised about regulating CO2 across state lines, and about the lawsuit he explained during his speech that he would be filing against the state of Minnesota’s efforts to limit CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, many of which are based in North Dakota and supply much of Minnesota’s energy.

      I approached him to inquire as to whether some of the issues he raised about interstate commerce might apply to the state of California’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases through AB 32. He said he was awaiting results of Proposition 23, but if it did not pass, he’d been talking with other attorneys general about suing the state on interstate commerce grounds. We were clearly talking about AB 32, that was the absolutely clear thrust of our discussion. I asked him, “Which states?” And he said, Alabama, Nebraska, and Texas. He even joked about Texas saying, “and they have a lot more lawyers, and money, than we do.”

      Mark Schapiro is a senior correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting covering climate policy and the global carbon offset market.