State Cases

This section summarizes Constitutional challenges to renewable energy laws or administrative decisions in fourteen states. While there are ongoing proceedings, no proceeding has yet resulted in a court or administrative agency striking down a renewable energy law as unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court affirmed lower court decisions holding that state incentives for natural gas fired power plants are preempted, and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision striking down a law prohibiting certain sales from new coal-fired plants.

Summary of Proceedings:

Forum: Challenge to: Authority: Status:
California Public Utilities Commission Renewable Portfolio Standard (interconnection, deliverability requirements) Commerce Clause CPUC denied challenge in 2013, no appeal to state court
9th Cir. Court of Appeals Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Commerce Clause Following remand, district court dismissed most claims in Aug. 2015
Federal District Court, California Feed-In Tariff Supremacy Clause Motion to Dismiss Pending
10th Cir. Court of Appeals Renewable Energy Standard (per se discriminatory, incentives for certain projects) Commerce Clause Appellate court upheld district court’s dismissal
2nd Cir. Court of Appeals Contracts for renewable energy that were selected through an RFP by State regulators Supremacy Clause Appellate court upheld district court’s dismissal
2nd Cir. Court of Appeals RFP process to select contracts for renewable energy Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause District Court dismissed the claims; appeal pending in the Second Circuit
2nd Cir. Court of Appeals RFP process to select contracts for renewable energy Supremacy Clause District Court dismissed the claims; appeal pending in the Second Circuit
Federal District Court, Delaware Renewable Portfolio Standard (benefits for generator using fuel cells produced in DE) Commerce Clause, Equal Protection Clause Settlement reached in 2015; statute’s in-state requirements dropped
Federal District Court, Massachusetts Statutory requirement for long-term contracts for renewable energy; solar energy mandate Commerce Clause Settlement reached in 2010; statute’s in-state requirements dropped
1st Cir. Court of Appeals Contract between offshore wind developer and utility Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause First Circuit remanded to District Court
Federal District Court, Massachusetts RPS and PURPA Implementation Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause Complaint filed in October 2015
7th Cir. Court of Appeals Michigan Renewable Energy Standard Commerce Clause In dicta in a 2013 decision, the Court said Michigan’s RES was unconstitutional
8th Cir. Court of Appeals Law prohibiting imports from or contracts with new coal-fired generators Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause Appellate court upheld district court’s conclusion that the law is unconstitutional
Missouri state courts Renewable Electricity Standard (in-state requirement) Commerce Clause Challenge moot because in-state requirement withdrawn
Federal District Court, New York PSC Approval of contract Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause Complaint filed in February 2015
New York Public Service Commission Renewable Portfolio Standard (in-state requirement) Commerce Clause In-state requirement upheld by PSC
Supreme Court of Ohio Wind farm approval (based in part on in-state RPS requirement) Commerce Clause Held that approval is not unconstitutional
9th Cir. Court of Appeals Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause Ninth Circuit reviewing District Court’s dismissal
1st Cir. Court of Appeals Contract between offshore wind developer and utility Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause District Court dismissed the claims; appeal pending in the First Circuit
Rhode Island Public Utility Commission, FERC Contract between offshore wind developer and utility Commerce Clause, Separation of Powers PUC, FERC declined to address issues; PUC’s decision affirmed by RI Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court States’ incentives to encourage new gas-fired generation Commerce Clause, Supremacy Clause Held that state schemes are preempted

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