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Judge advances global warming lawsuit

Judge advances global warming lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal judge has advanced a lawsuit against the government over its funding of overseas projects that environmental groups claim contribute to climate change.The lawsuit, filed by environmental groups and four U.S. cities, claims that the overseas projects will harm the U.S. environment because the effects of global warming will be felt at home, and seeks to require the same environmental reviews that are required for domestic projects.The Bush administration had argued last year that the ‘alleged impacts of global climate change are too remote and speculative’ to require the reviews.But in allowing the lawsuit to proceed, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Friday cast doubt on the administration’s assertion that disagreements remain about the connection between human activity and climate change. He also cited increased attention on the issue in the news and entertainmentmedia, including Gore’s documentary, ‘An Inconvenient Truth.”It would be difficult for the court to conclude that defendants have created a genuine dispute that (greenhouse gases) do not contribute to global warming,’ White wrote in his ruling.The lawsuit names two agencies — the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the United States — that insure billions of dollars of U.S. investors’ money for foreign projects, including power plants that emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.White accepted the plaintiffs’ argument the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, can apply to the U.S.-backed projects overseas. The law requires environmental assessments of proposed domestic projects. The administration had argued that the agencies were exempt from NEPA.However, White said he did not have enough information to rule on the question of whether the projects at issue constitute a ‘major federal action’ that would significantly affect the environment — an important criteria for NEPA.The projects at issue in the lawsuit include a pipeline from Chad to Cameroon; oil and natural gas projects in Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and Indonesia; and a coal-fired power plant in China. Since the lawsuit was filed in 2002, several of the projects have gotten well under way or have been completed.Plaintiffs, which include Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as well as Boulder, Colo., and the California cities of Oakland, Santa Monica and Arcata, claim those projects and dozens of others received more than $32 billion in financial assistance without an evaluation of their global-warming impacts at home.Ronald Shems, a Vermont attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit goes on in hopes that it can set ground rules for future overseas projects. If successful, the lawsuit also would promote transparency in NEPA, he said.Spokesmen for the two government agencies did not respond to phone messages Saturday seeking comment.Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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