Search Site
Menu

Future of Federal Climate Change Law Remains Uncertain

In American Electric Power v. Connecticut, 131 S. Ct. 2527 (2011), the United States Supreme Court rendered its first decision on climate change since the Court’s landmark decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 127 S. Ct. 1438 (2007). In Massachusetts, the Supreme Court held that the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq., authorizes federal regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Massachusetts held that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) had misread the Clean Air Act when it denied a rulemaking petition seeking controls on greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles. Due to the fact that the EPA had authority to set greenhouse gas emission standards and had offered no reasoned explanation for failing to do so, the Supreme Court held that the EPA had not acted in accordance with law when it denied the requested rulemaking. Following Massachusetts, the EPA commenced rulemaking under § 111 of the Clean Air Act to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new, modified, and existing fossil-fuel fired power plants. The EPA has committed to issuing a final rule by May 2012.

The consolidated lawsuits considered in American Electric Power v. Connecticut presented the Court with the question of whether federal courts may consider public nuisance suits based on harm allegedly caused by greenhouse gas emissions. These suits began prior to the EPA’s commencement of a rulemaking process under the Clean Air Act to set greenhouse gas emissions and prior to the Court’s decision in Massachusetts. The Plaintiffs (eight States, New York City, and three non-profit land trusts) argued that they were harmed by Defendants’ (five major electric power companies) contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and sought a decree setting carbon-dioxide emissions for each Defendant at an initial cap, to be further reduced annually. The Court affirmed courts’ jurisdiction over such suits in a 4-4 split, but reached a unanimous conclusion that the Plaintiffs’ nuisance claims were displaced by the Clean Air Act and EPA action, and were therefore not appropriate for judicial resolution. In so holding, the Supreme Court reiterated that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. However, the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants.

With May 2012 right around the corner, it will be interesting to see how the EPA regulates greenhouse gas emissions and how those regulations will impact both citizens and businesses in New Jersey and beyond. Moreover, American Electric Power gives some insight into how the Court intends to deal with climate change suits in the future. For more information, a copy of American Electric Power v. Connecticut is available by clicking here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • New Jersey sets emergency water standards for new chemicals. https://t.co/trgaaLL1mD
    4 months ago
  • How will New Jersey manage stormwater as the climate changes and flooding increases? https://t.co/dhVLALyzZ2
    4 months ago
  • Unprecedented storms are slamming NJ – learn how to be the best advocate for your clients when the next flood hits.… https://t.co/TicH6iAjP0
    4 months ago
  • Trenton Water Works has removed 25 percent of lead pipes throughout its service area. https://t.co/KUvhMsJlvU
    4 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

Amended Law Allows Additional Time for Condo Associations to Sue Developers

Governor Phil Murphy signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Statute of Limitations, which allows more time for condominium and cooperative associations to sue real estate developers in
Read More
Amended Law Allows Additional Time for Condo Associations to Sue Developers

Appellate Division Rejects Property Owner Challenge to Condemnation Designation as Out of Time Under Local Housing Redevelopment Law

A Lindenwold woman was out of time to challenge her property’s condemnation designation when she did not challenge the condemnation until three years after the land use board passed a
Read More
Appellate Division Rejects Property Owner Challenge to Condemnation Designation as Out of Time Under Local Housing Redevelopment Law

Amended Law Allows Additional Time for Condo Associations to Sue Developers

Governor Phil Murphy signed into law an amendment to the New Jersey Statute of Limitations, which allows more time for condominium and cooperative associations to sue real estate developers in
Read More
Amended Law Allows Additional Time for Condo Associations to Sue Developers

Middlesex County Water Contamination

On October 22, 2021, Middlesex Water Company sent a notice to all residents whose homes were supplied by Middlesex Water Company’s Park Avenue Treatment Plant in South Plainfield. Residences in
Read More
Middlesex County Water Contamination

In The Media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form