The American Electric Power Co. Inc (AEP) is facing a lawsuit from six states and the City of New York for releasing greenhouse gas emissions. This is expected to be the first of many lawsuits in the United States in which states and local governments have sued private companies for their GHG emissions. Filed as a public nuisance by the New York Attorney General, Schneiderman, AEP has five companies within its structure that account for 10% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions. As Congress, led mainly by Republican leaders, continues to work against greenhouse gas regulations and the EPA’s authority to monitor and regulate emissions, states and cities are becoming increasingly restless. Without solid national targets and leadership to curb greenhouse gas emissions within the US government, states are rising to the challenge again.
After the announcement of the Chicago Climate Exchange closing in December 2010, local governments are becoming increasingly concerned about emissions regulation. New York, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Vermont have joined together to sue the AEP to protect their citizens and their respective environments from climate change. AEP has five companies that combined are considered some of the largest polluters in the nation including American Electric Power Co., Cinergy Corp, Southern Co, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Xcel Energy Inc.
The case kicked off in 2004, with NYC, states, and environmental groups suing the five companies in federal court. They won the right to bring the lawsuit in 2009 by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The companies countered with an appeal to the Supreme Court. April 19th will mark the opening date for arguments, with a decision by July hopefully.
This lawsuit marks the growing frustration with delays in climate change leadership and regulation in the government. In 2007 the EPA was sued by the State of Massachusetts, resulting in the EPA’s obligation to determine whether CO2 emissions are a danger for human health and welfare. This was one of the fundamental cases providing the EPA grounds to regulate GHGs on a national level, a role some politicians are bent on removing from the EPA’s jurisdiction this year.