Landmark Ruling: Court Holds Power Companies Accountable for their Global Warming Pollution

WASHINGTON (September 21, 2009) - In a landmark ruling, the federal court of appeals in New York ruled today in favor of states and private land trusts that had sued America’s largest global warming polluters to curb their emissions.  

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that five large electric power companies can be sued in federal court because their carbon dioxide emissions contribute to rising temperatures and a host of damaging impacts in other states, including heat waves, smog episodes, droughts and forest fires. 

The Second Circuit held that federal courts are empowered to curb damaging carbon pollution unless and until the legislative and executive branches actually regulate that pollution, either under the existing Clean Air Act or the comprehensive new energy and climate legislation bending in Congress.

Below is a statement by Matt Pawa, lead attorney for the land trusts Open Space Institute and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire:  

“The court’s decision makes clear that the harms of global warming are real and need to be addressed today. For hundreds of years, courts have been there to protect citizens from harm. Today’s decision opens the way for citizens to protect themselves from the polluters responsible for global warming. Power companies that release millions of tons of dangerous carbon pollution are not above the law.” 

Below is a statement by David Doniger, senior attorney and policy director for NRDC’s Climate Center:  

“The best way to fight global warming is for the Senate to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. However, the court’s decision guarantees that if the Congress fails to do its job, or blocks EPA from doing its job, the biggest power companies will still be held accountable in the federal courts.”