US Supreme Court rules in climate change litigation threat

Paula Dittrick
OGJ Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, June 20 -- The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association lauded the US Supreme Court’s decision on June 20 to reject attempts to address greenhouse gas emissions through the use of common law “nuisance” lawsuits.

In the case of American Electric Power Co. vs. the State of Connecticut, the nation’s high court reversed a 2009 decision by a New York City federal appeals court that permitted litigation to move forward.

Previously, attorneys suggested a climate change litigation threat appeared to be looming for the oil and gas industry in the wake of a 2007 Supreme Court decision allowing the regulation of greenhouse gases as air pollutants (OGJ, Nov. 2, 2009, p. 32).

On Apr. 2, 2007, the Supreme Court ruled the US Environmental Protection Agency has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHGs. That ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts and several other states, US cities, and environmental groups.

On Sept. 21, 2009, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit allowed a coalition of eight states, New York City, and environmental groups to sue coal-burning utilities over climate change.

NPRA and the American Petroleum Institute filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in February supporting AEP.

The June 20 unanimous 8-0 decision was the Supreme Court’s first ruling on a GHG nuisance suit, NPRA said in a news release.

NPRA Pres. Charles T. Drevna said, “The court’s ruling is a logical and just decision and should send a signal to those attempting to use arcane legal rules to advance their political agendas. NPRA has stated unequivocally that discussions regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions should take place in Congress and not in the courts through ‘nuisance’ or ‘public trust’ lawsuits and certainly not at the Environmental Protection Agency through the Clean Air Act.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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