Attorneys general from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington said the Environmental Protection Agency has violated legal requirements that it update an analysis of air pollutants from power plants. The analysis hasn't been updated in at least 20 years, even though the Clean Air Act requires the agency to perform such an examination every eight years, the states said.
Updating that analysis would show that industrial emissions of carbon dioxide should be added to the list of what the government considers to be pollutants, the attorneys general said.
The suit was coordinated by Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general, who sent a letter notifying EPA Administrator Christie Whitman of the states' intent to file suit in federal court.
"While the individual states cannot address this problem alone, we can and will continue to keep the pressure on EPA to take action," Massachusetts's Attorney General Tom Reilly said.
Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, said the Bush administration has a legal duty to treat global warming as a serious threat because "rising dioxide levels will cause more disease, health damage, weather extremes, droughts and floods."
The planned lawsuit was intended to complement similar action by environmental groups Sierra Club and Our Children's Earth Foundation.
Attorneys general from Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut said last month that they planned to sue EPA to force the agency to regulate carbon dioxide.
Emanating from burning fossil fuels, carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to what scientists call a greenhouse effect.
President Bush rejected as too costly to the U.S. economy a treaty negotiated in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan that would require industrial countries to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to below 1990 levels by 2012. He announced a program to work with industry to improve efficiency and find other ways to help curtail the growth of emissions.
United Nations climate experts have predicted that concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere could cause dramatic climate changes, with as much as a 10.5 degree Fahrenheit warming of the earth by the end of this century.
By John Heilprin