DURHAM, N.C. — The Duke Energy utility that has been battling with a lawsuit alleging it violated environmental laws has won a preliminary injunction to prevent the lawsuit from becoming a full-blown regulatory mess, a court decision on Monday upheld.
The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a victory for a group of Duke Energy customers who sued the utility over its emissions-reduction efforts in the mid-1990s.
The suit alleged the utility’s emissions-mitigation program violated federal environmental laws.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.A. Court of Appeal in Richmond, Va., is the latest in a string of recent decisions by the appeals court to take an interest in environmental law.
The appeals court previously has ruled in favor of the utility.
The company said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s decision, saying that the court was correct in saying that Duke Energy’s emissions reduction program is a ‘good government program.’
“Duke Energy continues to work with stakeholders and the public to protect the environment and to reduce emissions,” the statement said.
“As we have said repeatedly, we believe in the power of science and we are committed to using science to inform our policies.”
The utility has spent more than $30 billion on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since 1998.
The case was brought by Duke Energy and five other plaintiffs.
The utility said the lawsuit was based on faulty science, which is why it filed a motion to dismiss.
The court also rejected Duke Energy attempts to argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed on grounds of frivolousness and mootness.
The judge, however, said he was willing to grant the utility a temporary restraining order and to set a date for trial.
The U.P.C., a legal advocacy group, applauded the ruling.
“We look forward to further progress in the case and to seeing the court make the necessary decisions that will make it more difficult for Duke Energy to engage in any further attempts to undermine the Clean Air Act,” said the group’s executive director, Stephen W. Davis.
“The case will be important for all of us to understand how the courts can protect the nation’s clean air while ensuring that it remains a safe and reliable energy source.”