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Electric utilities have a legal obligation to plan for climate change and its impacts under public utility and state tort laws, and could face liability if they fail to do so, according to a new report from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School.
Electric utilities “should be reorienting risk assessment and management efforts” to address “increasingly knowable climate change impacts,” according to Michael Panfil, EDF’s director of federal energy policy and an author of the report.
The use of tort law, which covers harm related to civil claims, could provide “another legal mechanism for reforming local electricity distribution,” according to Ari Peskoe, director of Harvard University’s Electricity Law Initiative. But he said “the best approach” remains using the utility regulatory commissions to ensure utilities are prepared for climate change.