Skeptical. Supreme Court was Skeptical on Greenhouse Gas Suit

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, the appeal from the Second Circuit’s far-fetched ruling that states can sue electric utilities as a public nuisance for contributing to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions. It appears the court was … skeptical.

Well, of course the court was skeptical. “Aghast” or “driven to distraction” would have been beyond the norms of judicial temperament.

But the arguments the justices heard Tuesday in support of Second Circuit’s ruling were enough to warrant strong sentiments. The appellate court ruled that it was OK for states to sue the five electric utilities for creating a public nuisance under federal common law because of their power plants emit carbon dioxide. You know what else produces carbon dioxide? Power plants, and factories, and animals and people all over the world, and the Second Circuit believe it was OK for the U.S. judicial system to be arbiter of the science, politics, regulation and wealth distribution potentially involved with that reality.

Quentin Riegel, the NAM’s vice president for litigation, previewed the case in an interview on CBS Radio. As he explained: “If the courts get involved in the business of setting national energy policy, then virtually any business could face a lawsuit. Courts are not the right place to be coming up with those policies. That’s the role of the legislative and executive branches.”

For more, see the Scotusblog report, the National Association of Manufacturers Manufacturing Law Center case summary and the NAM’s amicus brief.

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