Judge Dismisses Lawsuit to Force NY State to Leave Climate Pact

A lawsuit filed to force NY State to exit the northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has failed.

Koch Bros’s and oil industry-backed Americans for Prosperity filed the lawsuit. The NY State Supreme Court dismissed it.

The group alleged that power companies that have to pay for   carbon emissions pass the costs to customers, calling it a"coercive tax," which is illegal unless the state legislature approves it.

The judge dismissed the case because it wasn’t filed in a reasonable time – NY State has participated in RGGI for four years- and because there was no evidence the group suffered a "distinct" injury from NY’s participation in RGGI. 

Americans for Prosperity has been working in all 10 states that participate in RGGI to get them to withdraw. Its sister group, ALEC, provides the legislation, State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives. They have succeeded only in New Jersey.

NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says, "This is a significant victory for those of us who take the threat of climate change seriously, and want to mitigate its harmful effects." "RGGI offers a cost-effective, efficient way to reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change. I applaud the court for soundly rejecting this attempt – backed by out-of-state political interests – to stop New York from protecting its own citizens against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. I will continue to use the full force of my office to vigorously defend sensible efforts that reduce climate change pollution and, thereby, protect the health and welfare of New Yorkers.

"New Yorkers’ health, environment and economy face serious threats from climate change. These threats include an increase in heat-related illnesses and deaths, and disruptions to the state’s agricultural economy, including milk and apple production. Climate change also threatens infrastructure and habitat loss due to increased flooding and beach erosion because of more frequent and intense storms and sea level rise. Conversely, climate change is predicted to lower the water levels in the Great Lakes, harming the shipping industry and other users of these bodies of water."

RGGI is a market-based system to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 10% by 2018. Power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels emit roughly one-fifth of all the CO2 in NY State.

RGGI caps emissions of power plants of 25 megawatts and larger. Power companies have to obtain sufficient CO2 allowances to cover their plant emissions, with most obtaining their allowances through public auctions held by NY State. Companies that reduce emissions don’t have to purchase as many allowances and can sell excess allowances to other power companies. Proceeds from the auctions support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other greenhouse gas reduction and climate protection efforts.

This month, the RGGI reported that regional emissions have dropped 23% a year since the program began in 2008.

Schneiderman points the the recent study that found RGGI added $1.6 billion to local economies, 16,000 new jobs, and savings of $1.3 billion in electricity bills over the next decade through energy efficiency measures using funds generated by RGGI. 

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