The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that states can’t invoke federal law to force utilities to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. This shuts off one avenue for groups that advocate stronger and badly-needed steps against climate change. The unanimous ruling is a victory for five companies – American Electric Power Co., Duke Energy Corp., Xcel Energy Inc., Southern Co. and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. They had been sued by six U.S. states and New York City. The states, which sought a cap on emissions, argued that carbon dioxide spewed by the utilities is a public nuisance because it causes climate change. The Justices said the Environmental Protection Agency was better equipped than federal judges to assess the costs and benefits of reducing greenhouse gases.
The Court’s decision appears to put the burden squarely on the EPA. The states sued in 2004, invoking both state and federal law. The Supreme Court case focused on the federal law claim and the Justices didn’t rule on the state question. The states argued that the EPA still hasn’t taken action to reduce carbon emissions from the plants named in the lawsuit.
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