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Red State Blue State Smackdown: Red States to Sue California Over Global Warming Law

The attorneys general of Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota will sue California over its Global Warming Solutions Act, known as AB32, which requires 80 percent carbon emission reductions by 2050, California Watch reports.

First, though, the potential litigants are awaiting the results of the Fall Election, when AB32 will be challenged by Proposition 23, a voter initiative, which, if it passes, would delay the implementation of AB32 until California unemployment gets to below 5.5 percent, which should happen, like, maybe never, the way things are going.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is leading the charge, having already taken action been appropriated money to begin a legal case against Minnesota, which passed its own carbon emission reduction law. The Minnesota law, signed by Republican Tim Pawlenty, requires a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2012 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Minnesota gets 60 percent of its energy from North Dakota, much of it from a big coal mine.

Unintentionally hilarious quote: "Minnesota cannot regulate the way we do things in North Dakota," Stenehjem said. (Translation: You'll buy our coal, and you'll like it!) (Though North Dakota can hardly be blamed -- global warming will be a boon for northern climates, according to recent studies.)

There is a thread of legal logic in Stenehjem's coal-friendly petulance, however. These attorneys general say the California law, like the Minnesota law, is a violation of the Constitution's interstate commerce clause, which limits a state's ability to regulate commerce from one state to another, while giving the federal government wide latitude in that sphere. The prime example of state overreach, and one the Constitution's authors wanted to curtail, would be a tariff from one state to the next, and a limit on greenhouse gas emissions could, theoretically, be viewed as such.

But the federal government, via the Environmental Protection Agency, has already said greenhouse gases pose a danger to the environment and public health and so has the authority to regulate the emissions, though it hasn't done so yet. This could help California's case, one legal expert says in the California Watch piece.

Ominously for California's law, however, the Tennessee Valley Authority sued North Carolina over its greenhouse gas emissions law (North Carolina has a greenhouse emissions law?) and won in the very conservative 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This could get interesting. Though of course, if the drill-and-burn folks get their way, Prop. 23 will pass, and the whole discussion will be largely moot.