Vermont, states, NYC sue top five US global warming polluters
Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell announced July 21 that Vermont has joined with seven other States and the City of New York in filing suit today against the five largest global warming polluters in the United States. The suit demands substantial cuts in heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say pose serious threats to our health, our economy and our environment.
Global warming is a big problem that is only going to get bigger, said Sorrell. The question is: what are we going to do about it? This suit against the five top producers of CO2 gases in the United States is an important step toward confronting this major environmental challenge.
Companies named in the suit include American Electric Power Company, the Southern Company, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Xcel Energy Inc., and Cinergy Corporation. Altogether they own approximately 174 power plants emitting nearly 646 million tons of carbon dioxide each year almost a quarter of the U.S. utility industrys annual carbon dioxide emissions, and about 10 percent of the nations total.
The action calls on the companies to cut their pollution. The suit does not seek monetary damages.
Scientists say the Earth is warming faster today than at any time in human history, and more rapidly than may be explained by natural factors. The most recent data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that 2003 and 2002 are tied as the second hottest years on record, following 1998. The five hottest years have all occurred since 1997 and the 10 hottest since 1990.
Plaintiffs are bringing this suit because global warming is a serious threat to communities and the environment in their jurisdictions. These impacts will become increasingly severe if emissions are not reduced. Damages from global warming include more asthma and other respiratory disease; increased heatstroke and temperature-related mortality; loss of beaches, tidal wetlands, salt marshes, coastal property, fisheries; costly impacts to coastal and urban infrastructure (tunnels, subways, water treatment plants, and airport facilities) due to rising sea levels; loss of mountain snow pack; property damage; and human safety risks due to drought and floods. In addition to the adverse health effects, potential effects in Vermont include the loss of our hardwood forests and widespread harm to fish and wildlife, including cold-water species, such as trout.
A report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, at the request of President Bush in 2001, reaffirmed widespread consensus that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping emissions are responsible for the problem.
Experts say if nothing is done to cut emissions, average temperatures will rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. (By comparison, the difference in global average temperature between now and the last ice age was only 7-11 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Readily available solutions to reduce carbon dioxide pollution include increased efficiency of coal-burning plants; switching from coal to cleaner-burning fuels; investment in energy conservation; and use of clean energy sources like wind and solar power. Clean coal technologies are becoming available that will allow carbon dioxide to be captured from coal-fired power plants.
Vermont and neighboring states are already taking steps to lessen emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. For example, in 2001 the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers signed an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. Since July of last year, a coalition of nine northeastern states has been preparing a detailed plan, due to be released in April of 2005, to reduce CO2 emissions throughout the northeast. Earlier this year, Governor Douglas issued a comprehensive energy plan for state government that will reduce CO2 emissions from state government sources by 25% by 2010.
The eight states filing the lawsuit include California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. New York City joined the states in the suit. The case was filed in federal district court in Manhattan, New York. Plaintiffs are suing under the federal common law of public nuisance, which provides a right of action to curb air and water pollution emanating from sources in other states. Public nuisance law is a well-established and time-tested legal doctrine that is commonly invoked in environmental cases and forms the basis for much of todays modern environmental law.
Americas Top Five Global Warming Polluters: Ranked by Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Company-Owned or Operated Power Plants
#1: American Electric Power Company, Inc. (AEP)
2002 CO2 Emissions: 226 million tons; 2003 Reported Revenue: $15.6 billion. AEP operates 12 utility companies including Appalachian Power, Columbus Southern Power, Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Kingsport Power, Ohio Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Southwestern Electric Power, AEP Texas Central, AEP Texas North, Wheeling Power and AEP Generating. AEP operates in 11 states including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
#2: The Southern Company (SO)
2002 CO2 Emissions: 171 million tons; 2003 Reported Revenue: $11.28 billion. The Southern Company owns five utility companies, including Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric, which operate in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Georgia.
#3: Tennessee Valley Authority
2002 CO2 Emissions: 171 million tons; 2003 Reported Revenue: $6.95 billion. TVA is a federal corporation operating in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and North Carolina.
#4: Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL)
2002 CO2 Emissions: 75 million tons; 2003 Reported Revenue: $7.9 billion. Xcel owns five utility companies, including Northern States Power of Minnesota; Northern States Power of Wisconsin; Public Service Company of Colorado; Southwestern Public Service; and Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power. They operate in Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
#5: Cinergy Corp. (CIN)
2002 CO2 Emissions: 70 million tons; 2003 Reported Revenue: $4.4 billion; Cinergy owns the Cincinnati Gas & Electric; Union Light, Heat & Power; Lawrenceburg Gas; and PSI Energy, Inc. They operate in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.
EMISSIONS DATA SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eGrid database for year 2000 emissions.