A.G. Schneiderman Wins Court Victory Defending Critical State Effort To Combat Climate Change

NY Appellate Court Dismisses Move To Block New York State's Continued Implementation Of The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Schneiderman: I Will Vigorously Defend Efforts To Reduce Climate Change Pollution And Protect The Health And Welfare of New Yorkers

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today applauded a ruling by the Third Judicial Department of the State Supreme Court's Appellate Division that dismissed in its entirety a court action aimed at blocking New York State's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort to reduce emissions of pollution that contribute to climate change. The plaintiffs had appealed a decision of the Albany County State Supreme Court that dismissed the case. Attorney General Schneiderman vigorously defended RGGI before the court in both actions. 

“The courts’ rulings are a significant victory for all of us who recognize the clear and present danger presented by climate change, and the importance of confronting its destructive effects,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “I will continue to use the full force of my office to vigorously defend RGGI and other sensible efforts that reduce climate change pollution and, thereby, protect the health and welfare of New Yorkers.”

In affirming the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s appeal, the appeals court agreed with Attorney General Schneiderman that the plaintiffs’ complaint must be dismissed because certain claims are time-barred and the remaining claims have been rendered moot. 

In 2005, New York and a group of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states signed a memorandum of understanding in which each agreed to propose a program -- the RGGI -- to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. After a three-year process, in 2008, the State of New York adopted regulations implementing the RGGI program in New York. These regulations establish a market-based system to reduce the overall emission of carbon dioxide, the principal cause of climate change, by 10 percent by 2018. Power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels are major contributors to climate change pollution; in New York, they emit roughly one-fifth of all the CO2 generated in the state. 

Under New York's RGGI regulations, emissions of CO2 by electric-generating power plants of 25 megawatts 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 Sstate. Companies that reduce their emissions do not need to purchase as many allowances, or they may 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.

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

New Yorkers' health, and the environment and economy of the state, face serious threats from climate change. These 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. 

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Morgan Costello and Michael J. Myers of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa M. Burianek and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg and First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation Janet Sabel. Also assisting in this case were Assistant Attorneys General Denise Hartman and Andrew Bing of the Attorney General's Division of Appeals and Opinions, under the supervision of Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood. Agency counsel Jonathan Binder of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Hal Brodie of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority also assisted.