Environmental groups are going to court to help defend the nation’s first enforceable effort to reduce the pollution responsible for global warming. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will require cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in 10 northeastern states.
Five environmental and energy groups filed court papers today in State Supreme Court supporting New York State in its defense against a lawsuit brought by a single power company, Illinois-based Indeck Energy.
After years of public comment and input from stakeholders, including power producers, each of the 10 RGGI states adopted regulations to implement the initiative. Most power plants in the region are on board with the effort, and have already participated in the three successful auctions of pollution allowances, also known as “carbon credits.” The next RGGI auction is scheduled for June 17.
Indeck filed a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the regional climate initiative in an effort to get free pollution allowances, among other claims. The company filed its suit before learning if it would receive free pollution allowances from the state.
“Putting this challenge to rest will be of great benefit to the regional and national efforts to reduce the pollution from our power plants that is causing global warming — it is unfortunate that one disgruntled company who feels they did not get a sweet enough deal could hinder such an important effort from going forward,” said Seth Kaplan, Vice President for Climate Advocacy at the Conservation Law Foundation, a New England-based environmental advocacy group.
New York State filed court papers on May 15, 2009, in response to Indeck’s lawsuit. Today’s filing, a ‘friend of the court’ brief, submitted by Earthjustice and the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups, seeks to bolster the state’s case.
“For more than a decade, New York has been a leader in the global fight to cut the pollution that is changing our climate,” said Jackson Morris, Air & Energy Program Associate, Environmental Advocates of New York. “And every step of the way, a few bad actors have tried to slow down the nation’s first effort to cut global warming pollution. Polluters’ concerns have been raised and addressed and Indeck is the lone holdout dragging its feet.”
The news comes as Congress hammers out the details of federal climate change legislation, heeding the Obama administration’s call for action.
“Sheer greed is motivating this lawsuit at a time when we desperately need to cut our emissions of carbon dioxide,” said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Environmental Advocates of New York, Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, Pace Energy and Climate Center, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Fortunately the law is on the side of this innovative program to combat climate change.”
“Polluters will continue to complain that charting a new path away from ‘business as usual’ will be costly. Still, New York is leading the way on reducing harmful global warming pollution, while helping their customers save money and creating jobs in the state,” said Luis Martinez, an energy attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council.
“It is unfortunate that Indeck’s lawsuit has jeopardized the flow of RGGI auction revenues to provide funding for New York’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs,” stated Jamie Van Nostrand, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center. “Indeck’s issues were adequately addressed in the development of the RGGI rules in New York, and its legal challenge should be rejected to allow the RGGI program to continue to move forward and provide environmental benefits to New Yorkers.”
The RGGI was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Northeast power plants in 10 states. In addition to the direct cuts in global warming pollution associated with implementing the program, auctioning emissions allowances under the regional effort provides revenue for programs that further reduce pollution, such as energy efficiency and clean energy. Scientists say that without real reductions in climate change pollution, average temperatures in the Northeast could increase as much as 10 degrees by the end of the century, threatening public health, infrastructure and coastal property, agriculture and water supplies.
Read the brief (PDF)