The states, joined by environmental groups, sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision not to regulate carbon dioxide pollution as a contributor to global warming.
New York, California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, want the government to require tighter pollution controls on the newest generation of power plants.
"We feel it's incumbent on EPA to regulate carbon emissions from those power plants now in order to help us get our arms around global warming," said Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette.
Also joining the lawsuit are the cities of Washington and New York, as well as Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club.
New York and other states have fought with the Bush administration for years over carbon dioxide emissions.
In July 2005, a three-judge panel in the same court upheld the EPA's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act. The agency argues the law does not authorize them to regulate emissions to reduce global warming, and maintains there is not enough scientific data to support such a move.
The lawsuit was filed largely in response to the 2005 ruling, in the hopes that the courts will rule specifically whether the Clean Air Act can be used to fight global warming.
"We think this is the case that will decide that question," said Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer David Doniger.
An EPA spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.
Environmentalists say 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States come from power plants. Carbon dioxide is believed to be the greatest single contributor to global warming.
A growing number of scientific studies bolster the theory that increased levels of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases are accumulating in the atmosphere, where they trap heat and raise the earth's average temperature.
By Devlin Barrett