Energy & Environment Legal v. Epel, No. 14-1216 (10th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Colorado law required electricity generators to ensure that 20% of the electricity they sell to Colorado consumers comes from renewable sources. Colorado's scheme may require Coloradans to pay more for electricity, but voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot initiative proposing the renewable energy mandate. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether "Colorado's renewable energy mandate survive an encounter with the most dormant doctrine in dormant commerce clause jurisprudence." The Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) argued that Colorado consumers receive their electricity from an interconnected grid serving eleven states and portions of Canada and Mexico. Because electricity could go anywhere on the grid and come from anywhere on the grid, and because Colorado was a net importer of electricity, Colorado's renewable energy mandate effectively meant some out-of-state coal producers, like an EELI member, would lose business with out-of-state utilities who fed their power onto the grid. And this harm to out-of-state coal producers, EELI argued, amounted to a violation of one of the three branches of dormant commerce clause jurisprudence. Therefore, EELI sought to have the mandate declared unconstitutional. In the end, the district court disagreed with EELI's assessment and after review, the Tenth Circuit disagreed too, and affirmed that court's judgment.