Procedural feuds begin in 5 climate cases

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Energy companies and industry groups have kicked to the federal bench five lawsuits alleging climate deception by Big Oil.

The recent removals to federal district court — which are now commonplace in this type of litigation — launch a fresh round of jurisdictional battles in climate wars waged by local leaders and state attorneys across the country.

Filed this year, the cases by Charleston, S.C.; Honolulu; Hoboken, N.J.; Delaware; and Connecticut are part of a growing pile of challenges that seek payments from fossil fuel firms like Exxon Mobil Corp. and industry associations like the American Petroleum Institute for their contributions to climate change — and for misleading the public about the impacts of the sector’s emissions (Climatewire, Sept. 16).

Four of the removals occurred this month. Honolulu’s lawsuit landed in federal court in April.

State attorneys general and municipal officials have been filing these types of lawsuits since 2018 in the hopes of putting oil majors on the hook for sea-level rise, wildfires and other effects that are worsened by releases of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane.

Each climate case rests on a different combination of state laws on product liability, public nuisance, trespass and consumer protection. The most recent lawsuits lean on state anti-fraud laws, which challengers hope will help keep their cases out of federal court.

Industry attorneys have tried to punt the cases to federal benches, where Big Oil may enjoy an advantage.

Federal appellate judges have largely determined that the lawsuits should remain in state venues, but the Supreme Court is poised to hear a case that could give companies a stronger foothold to argue for federal court airings (Climatewire, Oct. 5).