WASHINGTON—A six-state lawsuit seeking to cap greenhouse gas emissions from power plants nationwide seemed likely to fail Tuesday, after Supreme Court justices suggested that recent federal action to slow climate change left no room for separate litigation.
The states sued five major power companies, alleging that by discharging 650 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, they were accelerating global warming and causing damage such as smog in Los Angeles and lower crop yields in Iowa. The case has never gone to trial, as defendants including American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc. and Cinergy Corp., have argued that the policy questions it implicates don't belong in court.
Connecticut, joined by California, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York City, pinned their case on a 1907 precedent. In that case, Georgia sued a Tennessee copper company for discharging "sulphurous acid gas" that drifted across the state line. The states called their suit a last resort to protect their residents and territory from environmental harm.