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20 May 2022

Lesley Clark, E&E News

USA: Lawsuits by local authorities against fossil fuel companies over their contribution to climate change may head to Supreme Court, say lawyers

"Climate lawsuits poised for new Supreme Court fight", 18 May 2022

Climate liability lawsuits from state and local governments against fossil fuel companies are creeping closer to a new Supreme Court showdown.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said yesterday that it would not rehear arguments by BP PLC and other companies that Baltimore’s climate case should be heard in federal — rather than state — court, setting the stage for industry to bring its fight once again to the nation’s highest bench. The decision came as industry attorneys last night asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a similar ruling against fossil fuel producers in a separate liability case out of California.

In another suit filed by Boulder County, Colo., oil companies have been given until June 8 to request that the justices overturn the industry’s loss in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals...

The cases are among more than two dozen that have been filed by state and local governments across the country, seeking compensation from industry for flooding, wildfires and other ravages of climate change.

Baltimore’s case last year made its way up to the Supreme Court, which sided with the oil and gas industry in finding that appellate judges could consider a broader set of arguments in favor of keeping the climate liability lawsuits in federal court, where companies believe they face better odds. The venue fight has stymied the vast set of cases.

Sara Gross, chief of the affirmative litigation division in the Baltimore City Department of Law, welcomed the 4th Circuit’s rehearing denial yesterday, noting that it’s the third time the appeals court has found that the case belongs before state judges.

“The defendants were told today that not a single one of the 4th Circuit’s judges was interested in hearing more from them,” she said. “We expect they will petition the Supreme Court next in yet another attempt to avoid accountability for deceiving Baltimore’s residents, workers and businesses.”...

Attorneys for the companies had cited a 2021 ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld dismissal of a climate liability suit brought by New York City against five fossil fuel firms, finding that the city’s claims were preempted by the federal Clean Air Act...

Appellate judges across the United States have largely rejected the fossil fuel industry’s argument that climate liability cases should not be heard in state court because they involve federal officials...