Saturday, August 28, 2010

Obama admininstration intervenes on polluters' side in Connecticut v. AEP case

The Obama administration takes another step to show its lack of seriousness about environmental problems. The administration is intervening on the side of the coal industry to oppose an environmental lawsuit aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The case in question is Connecticut v. American Electric Power Company, also called the AEP case. The federal circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Nancy Milburn explains the significane of the decision in Connecticut v. AEP Decision Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 04/12/2010:

The AEP decision represents a significant departure for climate-change-related tort litigation. Courts have traditionally dismissed at the pleadings stage suits by private or governmental litigants alleging nuisance or other common law claims based on global climate change. Courts have held that these suits present national and international policy issues that are more properly addressed by the legislative or executive branch and that courts are therefore foreclosed from exercising jurisdiction. Courts have also held that plaintiffs are not constitutionally entitled to sue when they allege generalized injuries from global warming where the conduct at issue-emission of carbon dioxide - is not limited to the named defendants but is engaged in by every emitting entity in the world. The AEP Court, however, took a fundamentally different view. It found that the issues presented, including what level of emissions was allegedly "unreasonable" and whether contributions to a worldwide phenomenon satisfy causation, did not present obstacles to the adjudication of plaintiffs' claims. It found that the case presented "discrete domestic nuisance issues" that courts were well equipped to decide. [my emphasis]
David Dayen writes about the administration's intervention in the case on behalf of the polluters in Obama Solicitor General Argument in Environmental Case a Sharp Reversal from Past Presidents FDL News Desk 08/27/2010:

Environmental groups reacted with alarm at the decision by the Obama Administration to side with the polluters (more reaction here and here). Matthew Pawa, the co-lead counsel in the case, said the argument basically boiled down to "Trust us, we'l get to it, if we happen to get re-elected .... Talk is cheap, it’s enough. Enough hot air."
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