updated 9/16/2005 7:55:08 AM ET 2005-09-16T11:55:08

A lawsuit filed by eight states aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions from some of the country’s largest power producers was dismissed by a federal judge Thursday.

The states, including New York, sued five companies that own 174 fossil fuel-burning power plants, claiming that they contribute to the problem of global warming.

But U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan said that in asking the court to set CO2 reductions, the states want the judiciary to craft wide-ranging environmental policies that would affect the economy, national security and foreign policy. She said such “political” decisions should properly be considered by the president and Congress.

“Cases presenting political questions are consigned to the political branches that are accountable to the people, not to the judiciary,” Preska wrote.

An appeal was promised by New York state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who were joined in the lawsuit by their counterparts from Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin, along with New York City’s corporation counsel.

The lawsuit, filed last summer, names American Electric Power Co., Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc., Cinergy Corp. and the federal Tennessee Valley Authority. The attorney generals claim the power producers are the five largest carbon dioxide emitters in the nation.

Many scientists believe that manmade emissions of carbon dioxide — produced when coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels burn — is a key culprit in global warming. If trends are not reversed, they believe continued temperature increases will cause rising tides, droughts, and other climate disruptions.

“We are disappointed that the court has taken an unduly narrow view of its power and obligation to decide cases that come before it,” said Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette. “Because the science is clear that global warming poses a real and inevitable environmental threat with grave human consequences, we will appeal this decision and continue to work on other fronts to demand action on this critical problem.”

Spokesmen for Columbus, Ohio-based AEP and Minneapolis-based Xcel praised the judge’s decision and noted that the companies were already voluntarily reducing CO2 emissions.

“Our company is an environmental leader,” said Xcel spokesman Paul Adelmann. “We’re proud of our performance.”

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