Lawsuit Seen Forcing US Hand on Global Warming

Lawsuit seeks to require two U.S. development agencies to conduct environmental assessments on coal, natural gas and petroleum projects they financed in developing nations, including China and Mexico.

Published: 16-Jan-2005

YORK - Green lobbyists and several U.S. cities hope a lawsuit against U.S. development agencies will force the government to act on global warming, even though President Bush has long insisted there's no scientific proof linking human activity to warming.

Environmental lawyers say the suit will be closely watched as lawsuits against utilities and the government tied to global warming increase. Last July, for example, eight U.S. states and New York City sued five U.S. power companies, accusing them of stoking climate change.

"Any court that rules that global warming is a problem that needs to be addressed, just that headline, would be huge for the people trying to do something about global warming," said Pat Parenteau, a professor at Vermont Law School's Environmental Law Center.

The lawsuit, slated to be argued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in April, seeks to require two U.S. development agencies to conduct environmental assessments on coal, natural gas and petroleum projects they financed in developing nations, including China and Mexico.

Under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, U.S. government agencies are required to conduct such assessments on taxpayer-funded projects in the United States.

In recent briefs in the two-year old case, the plaintiffs said the projects financed by the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corp (OPIC), contribute 8 percent of the world's emissions of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

NO HUMAN CONNECTION TO WARMING?

The plaintiffs, which include lobbyists Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, said global warming from the emissions boost sea levels by melting glaciers, which threatens coastal cities and island vacation properties. One plaintiff, the city of Arcata, California, said warming could harm salmon migration, and rising seas would cause flooding that would damage the city's wastewater treatment system.

U.S. Department of Justice lawyers for OPIC and Export-Import refused to comment on the suit.

But in a recent motion to dismiss the case, they said the connection between the defendants and the alleged injuries is undermined by the "minimal" amount of emissions from the projects and argued that "the basic connection between human-induced greenhouse emissions and observed climate change has not been established."

Given that most mainstream scientists believe that greenhouse gases from industry and autos cause global warming, the plaintiffs say their suit will be bolstered by inconsistencies within the Bush administration on global warming. (Agencies)

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