New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman filed the brief on behalf of New York City and state, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island and Vermont. The case, American Electric Power Co., Inc. vs. Connecticut, covers five electric power companies: American Electric Power Co., Cinergy Corp., Southern Co., the Tennessee Valley Authority and Xcel Energy Inc.
Schneiderman’s office said that this is the first case where state and local governments have sued private companies to require reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
Schneiderman argues that power companies are causing a “public nuisance” by releasing carbon dioxide into the air, and can therefore be held accountable in court.
“Climate change threatens our economy, our health and our natural resources. This lawsuit protects New Yorkers and our environment from the serious harms caused by unrestrained greenhouse gas pollution,” Schneiderman said. “As some of the biggest global warming polluters in the country, these five companies produce 10 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. To protect our future, we must have the right to hold these polluters accountable in a court of law.”
Three land trusts, the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, Open Space Institute and Open Space Conservancy, filed a separate brief.
The case began in 2004, when New York state, along with New York City, several other states and environmental groups, sued the five companies in federal court to force them to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from their fossil fuel burning power plants.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the states’ right to bring the lawsuit in 2009, and the power companies appealed to the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on April 19. The New York attorney general’s office said it expects the Supreme Court to decide the case by July.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the midst of introducing greenhouse gas reporting requirements for large emitters and fuel suppliers, but has postponed the reporting deadline from its original date of March 31.
The agency’s moves to regulate greeenhouse gases have been spurred by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, which obliged the EPA to determine whether carbon dioxide emissions endanger human health and welfare.
Congressmen, led mostly by Republicans in the House of Representative, has introduced a number of measures seeking to curb the EPA’s jurisdiction over GHG regulation, including a bill that would prohibit the EPA from regulating such emissions from stationary sources.
In January, Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania-based power plant for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act.