Global warming damage seekers don’t fare well in court

It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for the anti-fossil fuel folks suing multi-national oil and gas companies over alleged consequences of global warming. Judges in the progressive states of California and New York have dismissed climate change lawsuits saying the court room is the not the place to make to energy policy that has global implications.

The dismissal of these lawsuits is great news and a big win for those of us who use and benefit from fossil fuels every single day. In other words, everyone.

At the end of June, US District Court Judge William Alsup dismissed the city of Oakland and state of California lawsuit against Exxon Mobile, Chevron Corporation, BP, and others. In his 16-page decision, Judge Alsup said that he agreed with the science of global warming but that the benefits of oil and gas must also be part of the dialogue. In his conclusion he stated, the court is not the proper venue:

“In sum, this order accepts the science behind global warming. So do both sides. The dangers raised in the complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches. The Court will stay its hand in favor of a solution by the legislative and executive branches.”

Just last week, US District Court Judge John Keenan came to a similar conclusion and tossed a similar lawsuit from New York City against the same plaintiffs – BP, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Royal Dutch Shell, and Exxon. Judge Keenan wrote in his 23-page decision:

“the immense and complicated problem of global warming requires a comprehensive solution that weighs the global benefits of fossil fuel use with the gravity of the impending harms.  To litigate such an action for injuries from foreign greenhouse gas emissions in federal court would severely infringe upon the foreign-policy decisions that are squarely within the purview of the political branches of the U.S. Government.  Accordingly, the Court will exercise appropriate caution and decline to recognize such a cause of action.”

What does it mean for the Boulder lawsuit

The Boulder lawsuit, which was a year in the making according to Western Wire, was filed in Boulder County Court. They are going to want to keep it local, especially if they get their jury trial. They will want to draw from a pool of friendly Boulder area residents.

Despite arguments that global warming damage is localized, the lawsuit may not stay in Boulder. Axios reports that the defendants Exxon and Suncor already have asked for a change of venue to the friendlier confines of federal court. Their attorneys – along with oil lawyers in lawsuits in two other states – “argue that climate change is an inherently global issue and thus the cases should be considered within the federal court system.”

Next, we’ll take a deeper dive into the Boulder lawsuit defendants Exxon and Suncor.