- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

A few weeks ago, eight state attorneys general (representing California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin), joined by the corporation counsel of New York City, announced a federal lawsuit against five power companies (American Electric Power Co., Cinergy Corp., Southern Co., the Tennessee Valley Authority and Xcel Energy Inc.).

The AGs contend those companies produce about 10 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions by burning fossil fuels and thus contribute to global warming. The lawsuit has been brought under a legal theory that global warming is a “public nuisance” caused by the generation of greenhouse gases as a byproduct of power production.

Devoted observers of state AG gang lawsuit activity will find it no surprise that New York’s Eliot Spitzer and Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal lead the effort. Both are seasoned veterans of practicing more law before cameras than in courtrooms, free publicity for such “crusaders” being the mother’s milk of their political ambitions.

That there is a substantial cost to taxpayers, in both real dollars, in diverted government resources and in defendants’ legal fees passed on to consumers, just doesn’t seem to concern them.

“Think tobacco, without the money,” said Mr. Blumenthal, trying to explain the lawsuit, which seeks to force reduced emissions rather than obtain monetary damages. Well, OK, that seems noble. But not a few legal scholars see the effort in far more derogatory terms — a frivolous stretch by authority-poaching vigilantes seeking to exploit popular fears.

The street credo of the aforementioned gentlemen and their pick-up team of fellow AG travelers was not at all enhanced by the publication, the very same week the AGs filed suit, of an article by a solar physicist. Paal Brekke is the European Space Agency’s deputy project scientist for the ESA-NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.

Here’s his lead sentence, written for the BBC: “Natural processes involving changes in the sun could have at least as powerful an effect on global temperature as increased emissions of carbon dioxide [CO2].”

Mr. Brekke says: “reducing greenhouse emissions will have much less effect in halting rising temperatures than some people think, and it might have hardly any effect at all.”

Note Mr. Brekke’s caution, characteristic of good scientists who understand science requires proof before proof can be stated. Would that the practice of law be guided by even a modicum of that disciplinary restraint.

Messrs. Spitzer, Blumenthal, et al., face a mountain range of legal hurdles and scientific uncertainties to even make the case that the lawsuit should be heard. If the “legal system” dismisses their “crusading efforts for the people,” that only increases their obligation to seek higher office in their selfless quest to achieve all that is good for everyone.

Mr. Spitzer, demonstrating the ability to precisely duplicate his tried-and-true playbook, was encouraging settlement even as the lawsuit was filed. If the suit is not dismissed as soon as a judge gets around to it, the power companies should tell the AGs to stick it where the sun don’t shine. The science on global warming is far from settled, as Mr. Brekke’s observations demonstrate. If the case does go to court, we herewith offer to represent the Sun, pro bono.

THOMAS HUMBER

Founder,

Center for Individual Freedom (www.cfif.org).

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