U.S. Supreme Court Tosses Federal Nuisance Claims in Climate Change Lawsuits

The U.S. Supreme Court threaded the needle in its 8-0 decision in AEP v. Connecticut. The Court unanimously ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas rulemaking under authority of the Clean Air Act has displaced federal common law nuisance claims by states and private parties, but the Court also let stand the lower court's decision that at least some of the plaintiffs would have standing to bring the case, and that the viability of state common law claims would have to be determined by the lower courts first.

The decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, together with a one-paragraph concurrence by Justices Alito and Thomas, recognizes that "Congress designated an expert agency, here, EPA, as best suited to serve as primary regulator of greenhouse gas emissions. The expert agency is surely better equipped to do the job than individual district court judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case injunctions. Federal judges lack the scientific, economic, and technical resources an agency can utilize in coping with issues of this order."

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