Utilities Again Under the Gun of Emissions Lawsuit

by | Sep 22, 2009

carbonemissions2A 2004 lawsuit against five major U.S. utilities, previously dismissed, has been reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York.

The lawsuit, filed by eight states and New York City against American Electric Power Co Inc, Southern Co, Xcel Energy Inc, Cinergy Corp and the Tennessee Valley Authority, asserted that the utilities’ emissions were a public nuisance that would cause irreparable harm to property, reports Reuters.

The suit claimed that power plants operated by the utilities emit 650 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, reports Cincinnati.com.

The suit (State of Connecticut et al v American Electric Power Company Inc et al 04-05669 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)) seeks to have the utilities cut emission 3 percent annually for 10 years, reports MSNBC.com.

In 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska dismissed the original suit, saying the issue was a political question for Congress or the President, instead of the judicial branch.

But in the Sept. 21 decision, the Court of Appeals said Judge Preska erred in dismissing the complaints, which were filed by California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and three land trusts — Open Space Institute Inc., Open Space Conservancy Inc. and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire.

The goal of the suit is not to collect monetary damages, but to change utility practices to “stem the pollution and safeguard our environment and economy,” said Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general.

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