(CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear arguments in a global-warming case against six power companies.
New York City is joined by eight states and three land trusts in its federal public nuisance claims, which stem from two separate lawsuits filed in 2004 that charge the companies with harming the environment through the 650 million tons of carbon dioxide that they emit each year.
The six defendants, American Electric Power, American Electric Power Service, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Xcel Energy and Cinergy, own and operate fossil-fuel-fired power plants in 20 states. Five of the companies are the “largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and … among the largest in the world,” according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim that the power companies’ gas emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect, trapping heat in the atmosphere and causing the earth’s temperature to rise. Global warming threatens human health and natural resources, according to the complaint, which seeks an order directing the companies to cap and then decrease emissions.
The 2nd Circuit revived the case after a district court dismissed it as barred by the political question doctrine.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was on the 2nd Circuit panel that originally heard the case, did not weigh in on whether the Supreme Court should consider the appeal. Sotomayor had just joined the High Court in August 2009 when the 2nd Circuit reinstated the lawsuit the following month.
The plaintiff states are New York City, New York, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Vermont, the Open Space Institute, the Open Space Conservancy and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire.