So much for the frivolous lawsuits!
EXCLUSIVE: Climate bill could trigger lawsuit landslide
Allows action from those 'expected to suffer'
Self-proclaimed victims of global warming or those who "expect to suffer" from it - from beachfront property owners to asthmatics - for the first time would be able to sue the federal government or private businesses over greenhouse gas emissions under a little-noticed provision slipped into the House climate bill.
Environmentalists say the measure was narrowly crafted to give citizens the unusual standing to sue the U.S. government as a way to force action on curbing emissions. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees a new cottage industry for lawyers.
"You could be spawning lawsuits at almost any place [climate-change modeling] computers place at harm's risk," said Bill Kovacs, energy lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The bill was written by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, and Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat. Both lawmakers declined repeated requests for comment.
The Waxman-Markey blueprint, including the lawsuit provision, has just been released, and the Senate is drafting its own energy bill. But Mr. Waxman has set an accelerated schedule for passing the bill through his committee by Memorial Day and President Obama lists an energy overhaul bill as one of his top priorities.
David Doniger, senior counsel with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the measure is similar to a landmark environmental ruling from the Supreme Court allowing states to sue the federal government for damages from climate change - largely on the basis of lost shorelines from rising sea levels - but did not set grounds for people to file lawsuits.
"The [Chamber of Commerce] is trying to say the global-warming legislation is scarier than global warming itself," Mr. Doniger said. "It's part of a menu of scare tactics they are compiling."
Under the House bill, if a judge rules against the government, new rules would have to be drafted to alleviate the problems associated with climate change. If a judge rules against a company, the company would have to purchase additional "carbon emission allowances" through a cap-and-trade program that is to be created by Congress.
The measure sets grounds for anyone "who has suffered, or reasonably expects to suffer, a harm attributable, in whole or in part," to government inaction to file a "citizen suit." The term "harm" is broadly defined as "any effect of air pollution (including climate change), currently occurring or at risk of occurring."