Second Circuit Court Allows States to Sue Power Plants over CO2 Emissions

A federal appeals court this week ruled that eight states can proceed with their lawsuit against five power plants for their contribution to global warming. (State of Connecticut, et al. v. American Electric Power Company, Inc. et al.)

The eight states, including Wisconsin, sued the power plants seeking abatement of “ongoing contributions to the public nuisance of global warming.” The states claim in their lawsuit that by emitting CO2 the power plants are causing “serious harms affecting human health and natural resources.”  (Wisconsin joined the case at the direction of former Attorney General, Peg Lautenschlager.)

The lower federal district court dismissed the states’ lawsuit. That court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit because their claims involved  political questions. The appellate court reversed the lower court and ruled that the plaintiffs had legal standing and could proceed under either a federal or state nuisance claim.

The decision could have significant implications for emitters of CO2. In addition to potential legislation and regulations, the court’s decision will likely set precedence allowing more litigation against businesses and utilities.