A lawsuit filed by the American Tradition Institute (ATI) challenging the constitutionality of Colorado's renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is a groundless attempt to eliminate a policy that has been good for Colorado's consumers, its environment and its economy, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) states.
Colorado voters first passed the RPS in 2004, establishing a requirement that 10% of the electricity sold by the state's two major utilities come from renewable resources by 2015.
The ATI's Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit in federal court last week challenging the constitutionality of Colorado's RPS, based upon what it says is 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, the RPS 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, according to ATI.
However, AWEA argues that ATI's filing is inaccurate. For example, the lawsuit claims that wind energy has caused brownouts in Florida and Texas, but Florida has no wind energy. Wind continues to provide large amounts of reliable energy in Texas, according to AWEA.
Earlier this year, many parts of Texas experienced rolling blackouts, and wind power was blamed. However, icy conditions caused unexpected equipment failures at fossil-fired power plants, taking up to 50 plants (totaling 7,000 MW of capacity) offline, according to AWEA. In fact, grid operators confirmed that wind energy played a major role in keeping the blackouts from becoming more severe.
‘As the Colorado Attorney General's Office has already publicly stated, this law is completely defensible; it is constitutional because the state has a legitimate interest in promoting renewable energy generation as an important policy choice with multiple benefits for its residents,’ says Gene Grace, senior counsel for AWEA.
Studies have shown that the land-based U.S. wind resources alone could electrify the nation 10 times over. U.S. wind developers are currently installing 100 wind farms a year.