States Litigate for Utility Emissions Reductions

On July 21, 2004, officials from eight states and New York City filed a lawsuit that seeks to force five utilities to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The states are basing their action on federal common law of public nuisance, arguing that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers the health of their citizens. The lawsuit would require that the utilities reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by increasing efficiency, investing in cleaner technologies, and increasing the use of their existing cleaner and more efficient electricity generation facilities. The plaintiff states are California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The utilities – American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp., and the federally run Tennessee Valley Authority – emit 646 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, or about 25 percent of power sector emissions and 10 percent of the nation’s total emissions. This is the first time any state has filed a lawsuit against a company for emitting carbon dioxide. The plaintiffs are not requesting financial compensation.

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