The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, formerly called the American Tradition Institute — a nonprofit that advocates a “free-market approach” to environmentalism. That means it represents, and is funded by, powerful interests who stand to lose billions if renewable energy is allowed to flourish. These are people who are perfectly willing to have billions of people dispossessed by rising sea levels, beset by a lack of clean drinking water, and sickened by air pollution just as long as their clients continue to make money by burning fossil fuels. Their parents must be very proud.
Back in 2011, E & E Legal brought suit against the state of Colorado to block a clean energy standard that requires utilities to get 30% of the electricity they sell to Colorado customers from renewable sources. The group argued that standard violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.
Wait. What? Yup; you see their clients make electricity by burning coal. Colorado used to get some of its power from those coal burning plants. Restricting the amount of coal-fired electricity coming into the state will decrease its clients’ profits and, gosh, how can it be legal for a government standard to take money out of corporate coffers? That has to be unconstitutional, right?
Fortunately, US Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel, went to law school and actually paid attention in his constitutional law class. He wrote, “To be sure, fossil fuel producers like [E&E Legal]’s member will be hurt. But as far as we know, all fossil fuel producers in the area served by the grid will be hurt equally and all renewable energy producers in the area will be helped equally. If there’s any disproportionate adverse effect felt by out-of-state producers or any disproportionate advantage enjoyed by in-state producers, it hasn’t been explained to this court.”
He also found the plaintiffs’ contention that the clean energy standard might raise the cost of electricity for Colorado residents to be laughable. He noted voters had given the initiative “overwhelming support.” He wrote, “That’s a cost they are apparently happy to bear.”
According to Think Progress, Colorado is a national leader in clean energy, due in part to the state’s ambitious renewable energy standard. It is home to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the federal government’s primary research facility for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“Today is a good day for renewable energy in Colorado and our efforts to clean our air and combat climate change,” says Carrie Curtiss, deputy director of Conservation Colorado. “It is time for the climate deniers and dirty energy lobby to end their frivolous lawsuits and recognize that clean, renewable energy is here to stay.”
Amen to that.