On the heels of California utilities filing long-term forecasts with the California Public Utilities Commission that included, for the first time, discussion of power plants? effects on climate change, a multistate lawsuit this week charged five utilities with instigating those effects. In addition, a study showing that climate change has a disproportionate burden on African Americans was released this week. Demanding that power companies reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Bill Lockyer, California attorney general, along with attorneys general from seven states and New York City, filed a lawsuit July 21 against five utilities whose power plants allegedly contribute to global warming. None of the 174 power plants owned by the targeted utilities is based in California. American Electric Power Company (AEP), AEP Service Corporation (an AEP subsidiary), Southern Company, Xcel Energy, Cinergy Corp., and the Tennessee Valley Authority are named in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleges the companies are the nation?s five largest emitters of CO2 and account for 24 percent of overall emissions for the electric power industry?a total of 10 percent of the country?s CO2 emissions. ?There is clear scientific consensus that global warming has begun, is altering the natural world, and that global warming will accelerate in this century unless action is taken to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide,? the lawsuit states. ?This complaint seeks a court order requiring defendants to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, thereby abating their contribution to global warming, a public nuisance.? Without reductions in CO2, a leading cause of climate change, states will experience widespread damage to public health, coastal and other natural resources, and economic sectors, according to the suit. Joining the chorus for action is the Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CPAR), whose July 21 report finds that African Americans are the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. CPAR is the policy arm of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. ?We are long past the point where global warming is considered a myth. We are seeing its effects all around us,? said Representative William Jefferson (D-Louisiana). The report notes that it represents the first-ever comprehensive examination of the impact of climate change on the African American community. California utilities, untouched by the attorneys general lawsuit, gave themselves high marks earlier this month in their climate change forecasts at the CPUC, noting aggressive energy-efficiency and renewables efforts. Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric, however, did not account for socioeconomic and racial factors in the climate change component of their long-term procurement plans. Edison downplayed California?s responsibility, emphasizing the global nature of the problem. That stance drew criticism from Jim Boyd, California Energy Commission member. ?It?s a world issue,? said Boyd, but ?I don?t find that constructive.? In their long-term plans at the CPUC, utilities proclaim they?ve joined the California Climate Action Registry. The registry is a state-funded voluntary agency aiming to track greenhouse emissions in the expectation that utilities may reap credits if emission reduction regulations are put in place. Currently, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District is the only company whose emissions inventories are posted on the registry?s Web site. Protocols for tracking emissions inventories are being refined and should be completed by October, said Joel Levin, the registry?s spokesperson. Some in the energy community say utilities should not engage in self-policing. The ?record in environmental policy is that voluntary programs don?t bring results,? said Tom Athansiou, an independent policy consultant. ?It?s a good program, but it should be mandatory? in order to eliminate the possibility that utilities falter in their commitment. Climate change legislation for utilities is also in the works. PG&E, along with Sempra, Calpine, and others, said that it is pushing federal emissions cap and trade legislation called the Clean Air Planning Act. But the Climate Stewardship Act, introduced by Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut), has the current momentum. McCain recently said he plans to bring the measure to another vote in the Senate, and the House version of the bill has 49 cosponsors, according to CongressDaily. Though the measure would establish ?weak? caps by 2010, said Athansiou, it?s a start, and it ?actually has a chance of passing.? It would ?give carbon a price. Carbon would not be free any more. If a utility emits carbon, it would have to pay,? he said.