SCOTUS Eyes Decision on Global Warming

February 2011Newsletters In the Zone

On Dec. 6, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in a significant global warming case. In deciding to hear American Electric Power Co., et al. v. Connecticut, et al., the high court has expressed a desire to clarify the limits of federal courts' authority in addressing climate change issues through reinterpretations of national environmental policy.

At issue is (1) whether states and private parties can seek to curb emissions on utilities for their alleged contribution to global climate change and (2) whether a cause of action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions can be implied under federal common law.

Eight states, New York City and three land conservation groups filed suit against four electric power companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority, claiming they were the largest sources of greenhouse gases. The suit alleged the utility companies, which operate facilities in 21 states, are a public nuisance because their carbon-dioxide emissions contribute to global warming.

American Electric Power Co. and the other utilities argued the courts should not get involved in the issue and contended only the Environmental Protection Agency can set emissions standards.

A federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York initially threw out the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the matter could continue.

For more information, please contact M. Joel Bolstein at 215.918.3555 or [email protected].