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Press Release

    Supreme Court Hints that Greenhouse Gas Case Will Be Dismissed

    04/19/2011

    Washington, DC- Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Electric Power v. Connecticut, a lawsuit initiated by states suing power companies for emitting greenhouse gases.  The states contend these emissions are a public health hazard and the courts should allow nuisance suits to mitigate such harms. The court, however, seemed skeptical of such arguments, pointing to both the unwieldy nature of such suits and the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency is more aptly suited to address any such concerns. 

    FreedomWorks views the Court’s concerns as appropriate and is hopeful that the ultimate decision will clarify that this issue should be decided through the elected branch of government, not a patchwork of legal decisions.

    “Already, Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency are struggling with this issue,” said Wayne Brough, chief economist and vice president for research at FreedomWorks.  “Adding the courts to this mix would create unacceptable levels of uncertainty that would ultimately leave judges making policy rather than Congress.  Climate change policy is a big and potentially costly issue that should be addressed by a Congress elected by the voters rather than unelected judges.”

    The case was started by Connecticut and joined by New York, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Iowa in a suit against power plants in the South and Midwest.  The states claimed that greenhouse gas emissions are a “public nuisance” and that the courts should act to restrict emissions from power plants.  Supreme Court justices, however, raised important questions about the lawsuit, from the courts trying to supersede a federal regulatory agency, to the ability of courts to sift through the billions of parties involved to come to the right decision.

    “Today’s argument raised some important common sense questions about the efficacy and validity of transferring such important policy questions to the courts,” said Brough.  “Today’s action suggests that the Supreme Court is not likely to pre-empt Congress or the EPA on this issue.  This provides Congress an opportunity to continue its deliberations without interference from the courts.  The issue is controversial and potentially very expensive for consumers, so today’s arguments are a welcome sign that the debate will be able to continue without the threat lawsuits.”