The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments during April in a case attempting to give private parties the ability to set emission caps on utilities for their alleged contribution to climate change. In the case American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, a group of state attorneys general sued five utilities claiming that their emissions are a “public nuisance” under the common law. The federal district court dismissed the claims ruling that the parties did not have standing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the lower court and found that there exists a federal common law cause of action for contributing to climate change. Whether the Second Circuit’s decision is upheld, however, remains to be seen. Based on the questions posed by the Supreme Court Justices during oral arguments, they did not appear to be agreeing with the plaintiffs’ argument that there is an implied common law nuisance claim. Specifically, the Justices did not seem ready to approve of the courts setting global warming policies, which is instead something to be handled by the legislative branch. A decision should be issued by July.

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