By DAVID KRAVETS
AP Legal Affairs Writer
A federal judge here said environmental groups and four U.S. cities can
sue federal development agencies on allegations the overseas projects
they financially back contribute to global warming.
The decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White is the first
to say that groups alleging global warming have a right to sue.
"This is the first decision in the country to say that climate change
causes sufficient injury to give a plaintiff standing, to open the
courthouse door," said Ronald Shems, a Vermont attorney representing
Friends of the Earth.
That group, in addition to Greenpeace and the cities of Boulder, Colo.,
Santa Monica, Oakland and Arcata, Calif., sued Overseas Private
Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Those
government agencies provide loans and insure billions of dollars of
U.S. investors' money for development projects overseas. Many of the
projects are power plants that emit greenhouses gases that the groups
allege cause global warming.
The coalition argues that the National Environmental Policy Act, the
law requiring environmental assessments of proposed development
projects in the United States, should apply to the U.S.-backed projects
overseas. The U.S. law should apply, they say, because those
developments are contributing to the degradation of the U.S.
environment via global warming.
The two government agencies claimed that U.S. environmental regulations
do not apply to overseas projects, and that the courts have no right to
intervene in those agencies' affairs.
Still, the judge's ruling was narrow. White did not rule whether those
agencies must perform environmental assessments of projects they help
fund, but simply said the groups have a right to sue. If White's
decision stands, the issue of whether U.S. environmental rules apply to
the projects backed by the agencies likely will be litigated, Shems
Shems noted that, even if he ultimately wins the case, that doesn't
mean a given project would be blocked even if an environmental analysis
is performed and highlights severe environmental damage it would cause.
"The first step in getting a handle on climate change is to find out
what the sources are and get an inventory," he said.
The suit claims 8 percent of the world's greenhouse gases come from
projects supported by the two agencies.
Linda Formella, a spokeswoman with Export-Import Bank, said the agency,
which supported nearly $18 billion in exports last year, does not
comment on pending litigation. The Overseas Private Investment Corp.
did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The case is Friends of the Earth v. Watson, 02-4106.
Editors: David Kravets has been covering state and federal courts for
more than a decade.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
udge OKs Global Warming LawsuitAug 24 9:00 PM US/Eastern By
DAVID KRAVETSAP Legal Affairs Write
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l judge here said environmental groups and four U.S. cities can sue f
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ons the overseas projects they financially back contribute to global
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This article was auto-posted by the ne.weather.moderated Weatherbot
program. The author is solely responsible for its content.
> Federal Judge OKs Global Warming Lawsuit
> Aug 24 9:00 PM US/Eastern
> By DAVID KRAVETS
> AP Legal Affairs Writer
> SAN FRANCISCO
> A federal judge here said environmental groups and four U.S. cities can
> sue federal development agencies on allegations the overseas projects
> they financially back contribute to global warming.
> The decision Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White is the first
> to say that groups alleging global warming have a right to sue.
> "This is the first decision in the country to say that climate change
> causes sufficient injury to give a plaintiff standing
Even for one who believes the evidence for global warming is
overwhelming, I think this is a real stretch. I find it hard to believe
that a plantiff will be able to prove that significant damage was caused
solely or primarily by a specific set of development projects. But
that's what the courts are for, I guess.
Thanks for the heads-up.
- Steve Stein