MAC: Mines and Communities

States to Sue Utilities Over CO2 Sources

Published by MAC on 2004-07-21

On coming to power three and a half yeas ago, US president Bush inherited a budget surplus. Now, after tax cuts for the rich and the "war on terrorism" this has turned into a record four hundred billion dollar deficit. So what's a conservative president to do? For a start - cut environmental funding even further. In fiscal proposals for 2005 the Environmental Protection Agency's budget will be slashed by $613 million from 2004 levels, including a $39 million reduction to Environmental Programs and Management. Meanwhile some state attorneys are serving a law suit against coal-burning power utilities which have failed to curb their greenhouse gas emissions, following dilutions of the Clean Air Act by the Bush administration.

States to Sue Utilities Over CO2 Sources


July 21, 2004

New York - Several states including New York, California and Wisconsin as well as the city of New York are expected to file a lawsuit on Wednesday against five major U.S. power companies, demanding cuts in carbon-dioxide emissions, according to people familiar with the matter.

The companies expected to be named in the suit include the No. 1 U.S. power producer American Electric Power Co. Inc. , Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp. and the Tennessee Valley Authority public power system, according to a draft statement on the lawsuit. The suit demands substantial pollution cuts by the companies, but does not seek monetary damages, the draft statement said.

The group of attorneys general filing the suit include New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who has in the past sued utilities running coal-fired plants such as Allegheny Energy Inc. and accused President Bush's administration of not enforcing clean air regulations.

Spokesmen for the state attorneys general involved declined to comment or were not immediately available to comment. The other states involved are Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey and Vermont. The lawsuit is expected to be filed in federal district court in Manhattan under the law of public nuisance, which allows a right of action to curb air and water pollution emanating from other states, according to the draft statement.

In a statement, the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council - a group of power-generating companies - called the anticipated lawsuit frivolous and "an exercise in election-year forum shopping." The group argues that some of the key factual issues in the suit are already before a federal appeals court in a case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental groups, however, are not impressed with the argument. In the absence of federal regulation on greenhouse gas emissions, the only way to regulate emissions is "if states like these tomorrow take action," said Frank O'Donnell, executive director for environmental advocacy group Clean Air Trust, in Washington, D.C. The White House calls for cutbacks in emissions through new technology and voluntary programs, arguing that mandatory reductions could hurt the U.S. economy.

Energy companies produce substantial amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which can aggravate health problems, harm the environment and cause climate changes. Insurance companies such as Munich Re say greenhouse risks, such as the threat of rising oceans to low-lying nations and of agricultural losses from global warming could total hundred of billions of dollars in the next 50 years.

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