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Case Basics
Docket No. 
American Electric Power Company Inc., et al.
Connecticut, et al.
Decided By 
(for the petitioners)
(Acting Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent Tennessee Valley Authority in support of the petitioners)
(Solicitor General of New York, for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

Eight states, New York City and three land conservation groups filed suit against four electric power companies and the Tennessee Valley Authority, five entities that they claimed were the largest sources of greenhouse gases. The lawsuit alleged that the utility companies, which operate facilities in 21 states, are a public nuisance because their carbon-dioxide emissions contribute to global warming. American Electric Power Co. and the other utilities argued that the courts should not get involved in the issue. The companies contended that only the Environmental Protection Agency can set emissions standards. A federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York initially threw out the case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said it could continue.

The states in the lawsuit are: California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The Open Space Institute, the Open Space Conservancy and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire also are plaintiffs. The other utilities are Cinergy Co., Southern Co. Inc. of Georgia, and Xcel Energy Inc. of Minnesota.


(1) Can states and private parties seek to curb emissions on utilities for their alleged contribution to global climate change?

(2) Can a cause of action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions be implied under federal common law?

Decision: 8 votes for American Electric Power Co., Inc., 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Clean Air Act

No. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court order in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "The Clean Air Act and the EPA action the Act authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants." Justice Samuel Alito concurred in part and in the judgment, writing: " I agree with the Court's displacement analysis on the assumption (which I make for the sake of argument because no party contends otherwise) that the interpretation of the Clean Air Act adopted by the majority in Massachusetts v. EPA is correct." Meanwhile, Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not take part in consideration of the case.

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AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. v. CONNECTICUT. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 August 2015. <>.
AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. v. CONNECTICUT, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 27, 2015).
"AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER CO., INC. v. CONNECTICUT," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 27, 2015,