Front Porch Blog

New York AG actions against coal power companies of limited value

Legal thrillers are fun to read, but real change is heavy lifting

From the New York Times, the State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is pursuing actions against large power companies who do not disclose the financial risks of coal in an era when regulation of carbon emissions seems imminent. Check out the article at

Although it is important that companies disclose their financial risks adequately, state level investigations into financial disclosure will not have the effect of markedly lowering coal-fired power plant construction or emissions. Any of these companies will write more fine print disclosures to avoid legal action if they have to, so the work of Mr. Cuomo may make people think for a minute, but will likely do little else.

Coal remains an incredibly expensive form of power to use, but because the environmental and societal costs are not paid by the energy companies, these energy companies will continue to apply for new coal power plant permits. If regulations such as a carbon tax come into force, the energy companies will use their political clout to pass on any added costs of regulation to ratepayers and/or taxpayers.

If the rate hikes are accompanied by concurrent progressive tax measures, this outcome would actually be a good one because people will reduce their use of energy without suffering financially.

Just don’t count on Mr. Cuomo and his department to make a carbon tax or the needed more progressive taxation happen. Any pro-working-people legislation of that magnitude will require good old-fashioned citizen action.





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