Suit Challenging U.S. Overseas Power Projects Financing Advances

By Published On: April 10, 2007

A federal judge in San Francisco issued an unprecedented ruling late last week, refusing to dismiss a novel suit challenging the way the U.S. finances international power projects to stem global warming impacts in this country. The cities of Oakland, Santa Monica, Arcata, and Boulder, Colorado, along with the environmental organization Friends of the Earth, sued to force the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to carry out a cumulative environmental analysis of the hundreds of power projects they finance pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (Circuit, April 21, 2006). On March 30, Judge Jeffrey White denied the two federal agencies’ request for summary judgment. He also ruled that the record before him was inadequate to decide whether the fossil-fuel-fired projects receiving billions of U.S. dollars qualify as “major federal action” under the national environmental law. “The court cannot find as a matter of law, that each and every fossil fuel related project the Ex-Im or OPIC may undertake in the future will trigger NEPA’s requirements,” he stated. The decision, according to Friends of the Earth executive director Norman Dean, “gives citizens standing to challenge major federal projects that contribute to global warming and requires federal agencies to consider climate impacts when undertaking such projects. As of press time, Dean said, Friends of the Earth had not decided whether it would appeal the judge’s finding that the court record was insufficient or proceed to trial. “Our policy is that we don’t comment on pending litigation,” said a spokesperson for the Export-Import Bank.

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