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States’ Greenhouse Gas ‘Public Nuisance’ Case Hits Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the case of American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The states argued that power companies, like American Electric Power, create a public nuisance by emitting greenhouse gases into the air. Therefore the states believe they should to be able to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a public nuisance under federal common law. If the court agreed with the states, they could then force the power companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

At the oral arguments this morning, it appears the members of the court do not see things the way the states do. At times during the arguments the judges strayed away from the question at hand and instead tried to determine if the Clean Air Act and EPA rulemakings have displaced federal common law. A number of the judges seem to believe what the states are asking for should be something that the EPA or the administration handles. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went as far as saying that the judges don’t have the “resources or expertise” to make the decisions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Whatever decision the court ultimately reaches, it could affect similar cases that have yet to be heard. For a transcript of the oral arguments in American Electric Power v. Connecticut click here.