United States utilities could face billions of dollars in liability for failing to curtail carbon pollution from fossil-fired generating plants, two Michigan Technological University researchers reported in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.
“Should an entity—individuals, groups, or governments—take legal action against utilities for their plants’ greenhouse gas emissions and contributions to climate change, researchers have developed a way to determine the amount of monetary damages that might be awarded to plaintiffs,” reports Midwest Energy News.
“While oil companies are under scrutiny over whether they adequately disclosed climate risks in securities filings, utilities face similar risks by not curbing greenhouse gas emissions from their conventional plants.”
While legal precedents might protect utilities from liability, co-author Joshua Pearce told MWEN, closer public attention and a wider body of research could shift the arguments in court. “One of the questions I was really curious about is: Even if all climate change-related damages were assigned to emitters, would it even matter financially to the companies?’ he said. “As it turned out, the potential liabilities are substantial and should not be ignored by investors.”
Four of the 10 highest-emitting generating stations in the U.S. are in the Midwest, Balaskovitz notes.