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Kim Koppelman: Court rightly favors N.D. in energy dispute

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

WEST FARGO — News was made last week when a federal court ruling sided with North Dakota in a legal battle over energy with our neighbors to the east.

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Even before the oil boom, North Dakota was known as an energy state, exporting electricity generated from our western power plants. For decades, affordable North Dakota-produced energy has been welcomed, particularly by regions lying to the east and their metropolitan centers — such as Minneapolis and Chicago — needing affordable, dependable sources of electricity.

What, you may ask, landed exported North Dakota energy in court? Minnesota adopted a policy years ago of attempting to restrict electricity produced with coal in other states, clearly aimed at North Dakota.

Coal in western North Dakota has been a staple of Midwest energy production for decades and has responsibly, dependably and affordably produced the energy others so desperately need. Coal production has become cleaner over the years, and North Dakota has been a poster child for how to do it responsibly.

Those who have toured the mines and power stations in our state understand just how well it’s been done. North Dakota land previously opened for coal extraction in massive mines has been reclaimed to farm fields and pastures where one would never know there had previously been a mining operation.

Environmentally-responsible North Dakota coal-fired power plants have ensured that our air remains among the cleanest in the nation.

Despite all of that, environmental extremists simply don’t like coal and some would prefer that it disappear as a source of energy. That, of course, ignores the fact that, without it, our nation’s energy needs simply would not be met.

The arrogance of environmental extremists standing at the border, gazing at the power line, asking “are you a ‘brown electron’ or a ‘green electron’?” and discriminating on that basis, ignores the realities of real energy needs, the responsible production of energy in North Dakota, and common sense.

For the foreseeable future, a major slice of electricity produced in our nation will need to come from coal. Other sources, such as wind and solar, are welcome additions but cannot hope to fulfill the need — or even a major portion of it — any time soon.

Penalizing energy responsibly produced from clean coal in North Dakota may pander to the political agenda of environmental extremism, but it simply makes no sense.

Try as we might, North Dakota was unable to convince Minnesota government to drop its misguided policies against energy we produce and they need. As a result, our attorney general sued to seek a remedy in the courts, a move some sensible Minnesota legislators even agreed with.

A federal judge made the only responsible decision she could. Clearly, Minnesota’s action was not only irresponsible, it was unconstitutional.

Minnesota’s governor has vowed to appeal the decision, but I expect that higher courts will see it the same way. I hope they do, because all who need and consume energy will be better served by that result.

Koppelman represents District 13 in the North Dakota House. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. 

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