U.S. Court Reinstates States’ Global Warming Lawsuit Against Utilities

September 22, 2009

A U.S. Appeals Court has reinstated a 2004 global warming lawsuit by eight states and the city of New York against five of the largest U.S. utilities.

The lawsuit was dismissed in October 2005 by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska, who said the issue was a political question for Congress or the President, not the judiciary.

The states sued American Electric Power Co Inc., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp. and the Tennessee Valley Authority public power system, arguing that greenhouse gas emissions from their plants were a public nuisance and would cause irreparable harm to property.

“We vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings,” the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit said.

“The district court erred in dismissing two complaints on the ground that they presented non-justiciable political questions,” said ruling by two judges on the appeals court panel, which originally included Sonia Sotomayor, who was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 8.

The states in the lawsuit were California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The utilities are five of the largest carbon dioxide emitters in the United States. Around 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from fossil-fueled power plants.

The case is State of Connecticut v American Electric Power Company Inc 04-05669 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

(Reporting by Grant McCool; editing by Andre Grenon)

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