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Westport’s Sherwood Island Hosts Global Warming Suit Announcement

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal used Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park today as the backdrop for announcement of a suit aimed at forcing the nation’s largest power companies to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.farrellblum07210402260.jpg
Sherwood Island State Park: Global warming lawsuit announced. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Blumenthal and attorneys general from seven other states and New York City filed a public nuisance lawsuit in Manhattan’s federal district court earlier in the day and then addressed a news conference there.

Blumenthal later traveled to the Westport state park where he held another news conference. Also in attendance were Chris James of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Westport First Selectwoman Diane G. Farrell.

Blaming the federal government for inaction, Blumenthal said he expects more states to join California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York City in the legal action.

“Some may say that the states have no role in this kind of fight or that there’s no chance of success. To them I would say think tobacco,” he said. “We’re here because the federal government has abdicated its responsibility as it also did with tobacco.”

In 2003, states received about $8 billion in legal settlements with the tobacco industry.

This time, Blumenthal said, “we are not seeking a nickel from any of these companies. We are simply forcing them to comply with the law.”

The Connecticut official said the suit seeks to hold the companies responsible and slash carbon dioxide emissions by 3 percent a year for 10 years.

“It sends a powerful message to hold them accountable,” Blumenthal said.

Farrell said Sherwood Island was “a right and appropriate place” for such a lawsuit to begin. She said like the legal actions against tobacco companies, this one reflects grass roots opposition to unhealthy practices.

Today’s lawsuit seeks to pressure five power producers – American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp. and the federal Tennessee Valley Authority – to clean up their emissions and help curb global warming.

The states that are suing claim those power producers own 174 fossil fuel-burning power plants that produce 646 million tons of carbon dioxide annually – about 10 percent of the nation’s total.

“Our lawsuit is a huge, historic first step toward holding companies accountable for these pernicious pollutants that threaten our health, economy, environment and quality of life,” Blumenthal said.

The attorneys general say that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide could have catastrophic effects, including increased asthma and heat-related illness, depletion of drinking water supplies, a decline in fisheries and erosion of infrastructure.

Marc Violette, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, declined to comment on details but said the lawsuit would, “for the first time, put global warming on the litigation map,” the AP reported.

“This is a precedent-setting, first-of-its-kind lawsuit,” he said.

Scott Segal, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a group that includes Atlanta-based Southern, criticized the lawsuit for trying to hold individual companies responsible for global climate change.

“If you gave the facts of global climate change to a first-year law student, and they recommended a public nuisance case, they would get an `F,”’ Segal said.

“The idea that any one company’s emissions are responsible for global climate change is more political science than environmental science.”

Jeffrey Marks, with the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents AEP, Southern and Cincinnati-based Cinergy, said regulating carbon dioxide emissions would severely depress the U.S. economy, limit the use of fossil fuels, and hinder environmental improvements.

Pat Hemlepp, a spokesman for Columbus, Ohio-based AEP, agreed, saying, “A lawsuit is not a constructive way to deal with climate change.

“There is nothing one company, five companies, or one country can do to resolve global warming. It will require a global commitment including developing nations.”

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