Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Toxic torts": A great time to be a lawyer

Newhouse News Service reports that the tort industry is rallying the troops to profit from AGW alarmism:

The legal world has been jumping on the bandwagon of those convinced the issues of global warming and climate change are here to stay — and could even prove to be a lucrative new field.

These days, it seems everyone wants to get in on the act, from big law firms starting specialty practice groups, to solo lawyers working on projects, to law schools adding classes devoted to the subject.

Some in the legal world predict climate change work has the potential to be the next big wave of litigation, akin to the huge tobacco and asbestos cases, as lawyers go after energy companies and coal mines that produce carbon dioxide.

While others don't go so far as that, everyone seems to agree attorneys are going to be plenty busy helping towns, companies and residents sort out the legal implications of global warming.

"That's going to be one of the biggest legal practices in the next 20 years,'' said Howard Latin, a professor at Rutgers University School of Law in Newark, N.J., who includes discussion of global warming in his toxic torts and product liability classes.

"It's growing into something very big. It's a whole new industry, so there's always a lot of legal work,'' said Edna Sussman, chairwoman of an American Bar Association committee on renewable energy resources.

A summary of some recent cases shows that lawyers are wasting no time taking up arms against AGW malefactors, real and imagined:

• The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

• Last May, 10 states sued the Bush administration, saying rules on sport utility vehicles allowed them to spew too much tailpipe pollution.

• A coalition of states brought a federal suit against American Electric Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority and three other power companies trying to get them to reduce their emissions.

• In Mississippi, a group of residents filed a class-action lawsuit against a clutch of oil and coal companies, saying they knew their emissions caused damage to the climate that led to Hurricane Katrina.

Did you notice that last one? Just as with many other issues in past years, junk science will form the basis of many AGW-related lawsuits in years to come.