Sunday, February 8, 2009

Global warming lawsuit settled in Santa Monica, California

The Santa Monica Daily Express reports on what sounds like a precedent-setting case: The federal government on Friday settled a lawsuit in which City Hall and environmental watchdog groups accused two U.S. agencies of financing energy projects overseas without considering impacts on global warming. The Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC) agreed to provide a combined $500 million in financing for renewable energy projects and take into account greenhouse gas emissions associated with projects each company supports.

Environmentalists said the lawsuit set a precedent by allowing those injured by climate change to sue under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was approved in 1970. The lawsuit was originally filed in San Francisco federal court in 2002 by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the city of Boulder, Colo. Santa Monica later joined the suit, along with California cities Arcata and Oakland, claiming that fossil fuel projects financed by loans from the Ex-Im and OPIC produced emissions equivalent to nearly eight percent of the world's annual carbon dioxide emissions, or nearly one third of annual U.S. emissions in 2003.

Deputy City Attorney Adam Radinsky of the Consumer Protection Unit argued that Santa Monica is being disproportionately affected by climate change because it is a popular tourist destination that relies heavily on a stable environment.

… The Bush administration had argued that the "alleged impacts of global climate change are too remote and speculative" to require the environmental reviews sought by the plaintiffs. It also argued that the two agencies are exempt from NEPA. The settlement filed Friday was reached after a federal judge rejected those arguments and ordered the parties to negotiate an agreement.

…Under the settlement, the Export-Import Bank, which provides loan guarantees and other financing for overseas projects by U.S. companies, agreed to develop a greenhouse gas policy and start considering carbon dioxide emissions when evaluating fossil fuel projects for investment. The Overseas Private Investment Corp., which supports American investment in developing countries, agreed to set a goal of reducing by 20 percent the greenhouse gas emissions associated with projects it supports over the next 10 years....

An early fossil fuel project in Cambria, Italy

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