Minnesota is already ahead in its transition to cleaner power, and green energy advocates say those efforts will be largely unaffected by a recent Supreme Court ruling seen as a blow to the Biden administration's effort to slow climate change.
Xcel Energy is retiring all of its coal-fired generation by 2030, with that capacity scheduled to be replaced with wind and solar energy. Minnesota Power will retire its two coal furnaces by 2035.
"This is a very large national setback, and it's very unfortunate, but Minnesota has been in the leadership, taking every effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants," said J. Drake Hamilton, senior director of science policy with advocacy group Fresh Energy.
She said that the state's Public Utilities Commission has been aggressive in pushing for cleaner power generation when utilities present their long-term plans. That, combined with the rising costs of coal, has hastened the closure of coal-fired generators.
And state powers are a major takeaway of Thursday's ruling, said Kathryn Hoffman, chief executive officer of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
"State utility boards are going to be, for the time being, much more powerful," Hoffman said. Her group was also a party to the Supreme Court case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency.
There was always tension over whether the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era program that the court struck down this week, really had solid grounding in federal law, said Gabriel Chan, an associate professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The plan used a provision of the Clean Air Act to require states to make their own plans to hit cleaner electricity targets. Minnesota is far ahead of the goals outlined in the Clean Power Plan.
It was dismantled by the Trump administration before it reached the high court and wasn't in effect when the case was heard, Hoffman said.
Now, regulators "can't take as comprehensive an approach in thinking about the entire sector of power plants as one regulatory target," Chan said.
Even though Minnesota is excelling in the energy transition, that doesn't mean the state will face no repercussions from the high court's decision, Hoffman said.
"Minnesota's very affected by climate change," she said, citing warmer winters and increased flooding. "It does have a big impact on Minnesota that the country now has fewer tools to limit those emissions."
The EPA still has the ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which was established in past Supreme Court cases and is unaffected by this latest ruling. Hoffman hopes that the agency will write new regulations going after these emissions, which will probably end up at the high court again.
Meanwhile, federal officials may be limited to regulating power plants one at a time, instead of as a group, Hoffman said.