New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo last week sent subpoenas to five large energy companies -- including three based in the South -- to find out whether their plans to build new coal-fired power plants present undisclosed risks their shareholders should know about.

The companies are Arlington, Va.-based AES Corp.; Dominion of Richmond, Va.; Houston-based Dynegy; Peabody Energy of St. Louis; and Xcel Energy of Minneapolis.

The New York Times reports:

Mr. Cuomo, using the same state securities law wielded by his predecessor, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to investigate corruption on Wall Street, sent subpoenas late Friday to the top executives of the five companies, seeking internal documents. ...

It is rare, if not unique, for a securities law to be used for an environmental purpose, in this case the fight against new coal-fired power plants. The plants' main emission, carbon dioxide, has been linked by scientists to global warming.

In letters accompanying the subpoenas, the attorney general's office asked whether investors received adequate information about the potential financial liabilities of carbon dioxide emissions that exacerbate climate change.

To view copies of the subpoenas, click here.