June 23, 2011 Articles

Climate-Change Tort Thrown Out of Court

The Supreme Court decided that federal common-law public-nuisance claims could not be maintained against carbon-dioxide and GHG-emitting entities.

By Christina M. Landgraf and Joel T. Bowers – June 23, 2011

On June 20, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 8–0 decision in American Electric Power Co., Inc., et al. v. Connecticut, et al., No. 10-174. 564 U.S. ___ (2011). In an opinion written by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court decided that federal common-law public-nuisance claims could not be maintained against carbon-dioxide and greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting entities. The Court held that such claims were barred because the federal Clean Air Act displaces such common-law nuisance claims. The Court found that Congress had given the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to decide how GHGs should be regulated, and that federal courts are not entitled to issue their own rules.


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