The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear arguments on whether plaintiffs can turn to the courts to seek reductions in emissions by coal-burning utilities on the ground that the emissions are a “public nuisance.”
The court will hear an appeal of a 2009 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, allowing a suit filed against the utilities by eight states, New York City and three land trusts to proceed. A lower court had dismissed the suit, calling the regulation of emissions a political matter.
The suit, brought in 2004, argued that the utilities were creating a public nuisance by burning coal and spewing heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to the problem of global warming. At the time the lawsuit was considered an alternative to federal legislation or regulation, which had been slow in coming.