Supreme Court Closes Door on Global Warming Suits Based on Federal Common Law

Reversing the Second Circuit, the Supreme Court on June 20, 2011 held, in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut, that the Clean Air Act, along with EPA regulatory action that it authorizes, displaces any federal common-law right to seek abatement of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from power plants. The Court’s decision means that for the foreseeable future, the debate over the proper scope of federal GHG regulation will take place in the executive and legislative branches and not the courts. It also leaves unanswered the question whether traditional state common-law remedies still have a role to play in GHG regulation.