Obama backs Blumenthal's campaign, fights him in court

John O'Brien Sep. 17, 2010, 12:00pm


STAMFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Opposing his view on how to regulate greenhouse gas emissions didn't stop President Barack Obama from supporting Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal at a fundraiser Thursday.

Obama applauded the courtroom efforts of Blumenthal against the tobacco industry and utility companies, but his administration is currently urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the appeal of several states who have sued power companies over their emissions. Blumenthal, running for U.S. Senate, is one of the attorneys general who filed the suit.

"(T)here's no fight too big or too small for Dick Blumenthal to take on," Obama said.

Blumenthal is finishing his fifth term as Connecticut attorney general and is fighting Linda McMahon, a former executive at a pro-wrestling organization, for the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd.

A year ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit allowed a public nuisance lawsuit filed by eight states, New York City and environmental groups against six power plants to proceed.

Solicitor General Neal Katyal filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in August. It says the federal Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to determine the proper levels of emissions.

"That regulatory approach is preferable to what would result if multiple district courts -- acting without the benefit of even the most basic statutory guidance -- could use common-law nuisance claims to sit as arbiters of scientific and technology-related disputes and de facto regulators of power plants and other sources of pollution both within their districts and nationwide," the brief says.

The Plaintiff States are Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, California, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Iowa.

The Fourth Circuit has already sided with power provider Tennessee Valley Authority in a public nuisance lawsuit brought by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

"If courts across the nation were to use the vagaries of public nuisance doctrine to overturn the carefully enacted rules governing airborne emissions, it would be increasingly difficult for anyone to determine what standards govern," Judge Harvie Wilkinson wrote.

"Energy policy cannot be set, and the environment cannot prosper, in this way."

Wilkinson wrote that a "patchwork of nuisance injunctions" could lead to more pollution because it could lead to power companies utilizing areas with less stringent rules.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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