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U.S. SC hears states' global warming case

By John O'Brien | Apr 19, 2011


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a case filed by several states who allege power plants are causing a public nuisance with their emissions.

A federal court had dismissed the suit because it claimed it should not be in charge of deciding the appropriate levels of greenhouse gas emissions, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed that ruling in 2009.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari to review three discrete legal issues: standing, the political question doctrine and the existence and potential displacement of federal common law.

A group of states and an environmental group filed suit against five electric utilities they allege to be the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the United States. The case is titled Connecticut v. American Electric Power Co.

President Barack Obama opposed the states' lawsuit. Solicitor General Neal Katyal filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in August that 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.

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