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Court Dismisses Global-warming Case Against Utilities
September 15, 2005

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. federal district court dismissed a lawsuit Thursday filed by eight states that claimed emissions released by the coal-fired power plants of a handful of U.S. utilities contribute to global warming and create a "public nuisance."

Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said in her opinion that the case presented "political questions" that should be dealt with outside the judicial branch of government.

"While, at times, some judges have become involved with the critical issues affecting America, political questions are not the proper domain of judges," Preska wrote.

The state attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin joined with environmental advocacy groups in filing the lawsuit.

The case targeted emissions released by some of the largest U.S. power companies with coal-burning plants, including American Electric Power Co. (AEP), Cinergy Corp. (CIN), Southern Co. (SO), Tennessee Valley Authority and Xcel Energy (XEL).

The plaintiffs argued that the release of harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants increases global warming, which in turn harms land and threatens public health.

In addition, plaintiffs argued there is a growing body of scientific research indicating that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, end up trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to the world's gradually warming climate. They asked the court to impose a cap on the utilities' carbon-dioxide emissions and set mandatory annual reductions.

The utilities argued that the plaintiffs in the case sought to have the court resolve an environmental policy dispute.

"The scope and magnitude of the relief plaintiffs seek reveals the transcendently legislative nature of this litigation," Preska said, agreeing with the utilities.

"Judge Preska says the issue is in the domain of Congress and the [White House] administration, and we certainly agree with that precedent," said Bill Holbrook, communications director for the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, whose chairman, James Inhofe, R-Okla., has been an outspoken critic of environmental warnings about global warming.

Let's see if I get this right. The judge says he's not going to look at the science behind the arguments, but instead must defer to the politicians who are bought and paid for by big oil and gas companies.

Are states being harmed? Yes. Is there sufficient science to prove they've been harmed? Yes. But, since congress is sitting on its butt judges those who are harmed can't seek a remedy. One recalls Brown vs. The Board of Education in which the courts forced the government to act.