Republican-Led States Ask Supreme Court To Quash Big Oil Climate Lawsuits

Big Oil Climate Lawsuits

Nineteen Republican attorneys general filed a rare complaint directly with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking to block several Democratic-led states from pursuing climate change-related litigation against major oil and gas companies in state courts.

States including Alabama, Florida, and West Virginia challenged California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island, alleging that by suing major energy companies in state court for climate change damages, these states are essentially trying to regulate global emissions and the U.S. energy system.

The Republican-led states argue that these regulatory powers belong to the federal government under federal law. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall stated, “These states are welcome to enforce their preferred policies within their jurisdiction, but they do not have authority to dictate our national energy policy.”

The five Democratic-led states are among dozens that have filed similar lawsuits against major fossil fuel companies such as Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and BP. They claim that these companies knew for decades that burning fossil fuels would lead to climate change but concealed this fact from the public, thus creating a public nuisance or violating state laws.

No immediate response

Energy companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They have argued that the lawsuits seek to regulate interstate emissions or commerce, powers reserved for the federal government. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong called the Republican-led complaint “pure partisan political theater” and insisted that their case focuses on truth in advertising, not emissions controls.

The Supreme Court previously refused to hear bids by oil companies to move several of the lawsuits to federal court after numerous U.S. appeals courts stated that the claims are not preempted by federal law. Fossil fuel companies made similar arguments before the high court in February to scrap a decision allowing a lawsuit filed by Honolulu, Hawaii, to go to trial, a request that is still pending.

Legal experts, including Doug Kysar from Yale Law School, believe the Supreme Court is unlikely to take the case filed Wednesday, noting that the arguments are variations of those previously rejected by the court. The case is State of Alabama et al. v. State of California et al., in the U.S. Supreme Court, with the case number not immediately available.