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Eight US states and New York City filed a lawsuit against five US power companies for their contribution to global warming, in a historic action on Wednesday.
"If we do not act soon, the steps we will need to take to prevent global warming will be much greater and much harder," says New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Carbon dioxide, unlike acid rain-producing sulphur dioxide, for example, is not listed as a "criteria" pollutant regulated by the federal Clean Air Act. Despite appeals to add it to the law, the current administration has refused.
The states are invoking a long-held "public nuisance" law aimed at protecting property owners from the actions of their neighbours. "Carbon dioxide doesn't respect state boundaries - we receive all of the pollution and none of the power" from out-of-state plants, Blumenthal says.
But power companies remain sceptical. "I would like to see their data on that," says Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for American Electric Power (AEP), the country's largest electricity generator.
Switching from coal to natural gas, for example, would drive the price of natural gas even higher than it is, raising energy costs for consumers
Outside observers believe the suit could start a trend. "If the states win the lawsuit, this would open up the door for other actions,"