New York court dismisses lawsuit over state’s RGGI participation

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on June 13 won a decision in Albany County State Supreme Court dismissing a lawsuit that aimed to block the state of New York’s participation in the multi-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Schneiderman said the lawsuit was backed by the out-of-state organization Americans for Prosperity, which wanted New York to withdraw from the initiative.

Americans for Prosperity is a national group that advocates limited government and regulation. A particular environmental focus on its website lately has been opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Utility MACT Rule, also known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

“This is a significant victory for those of us who take the threat of climate change seriously, and want to mitigate its harmful effects,” said Schneiderman about the court ruling. “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.”

In 2005, New York and a group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states signed a memorandum of understanding covering a program to regulate CO2 emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. After a three-year process, in 2008, the state of New York adopted regulations implementing a program in New York.

These regulations establish a market-based system to reduce the overall emission of CO2 by 10% by 2018. Power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels are major contributors of climate change pollution, and in New York they emit roughly one-fifth of all the CO2 generated in the state, said a June 13 statement from the Attorney General’s office.

Under New York’s RGGI regulations, emissions of CO2 by electric-generating power plants of 25 MW and larger operating in the state are capped. Power companies must obtain sufficient CO2 allowances to cover their plant emissions, with most obtaining their allowances through public auctions held by the state. Proceeds from the auctions support renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other greenhouse gas reduction and climate protection efforts.

A recent study conducted by the independent economic consulting firm Analysis Group concluded that RGGI added $1.6bn to the economies, and 16,000 new jobs, in the participating states. The study also projected that RGGI will provide consumers in these states with $1.3bn in savings on their electric bills over the next decade through energy efficiency measures using funds generated by the initiative.  

In his motion to dismiss, Schneiderman argued that plaintiffs lacked a legally-protected interest sufficient to challenge the RGGI regulations, and that their lawsuit was barred by their unreasonable delay in pursuing the challenge. The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in June 2011, three years after New York began implementing the initiative. The court agreed with the Attorney General on these arguments.

In neighboring New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection are being sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey for pulling that state out of RGGI. The plaintiffs there claim the New Jersey governor failed to follow due process.


About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.