Judge dismisses global warming lawsuits

Judge dismisses global warming lawsuits against oil companies by CA cities

By Rick Moran

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against 5 oil companies filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland that alleged oil companies were responsible for global warming and should be forced to pay billions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the suit largely on jurisdictional grounds, agreeing that global warming was a problem but that the courts were not the place to address it.

Wall Street Journal:

“The dangers raised in the complaints are very real,” he wrote. “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.”

The ruling is a blow to an emerging legal campaign by cities and municipalities that are trying to argue that oil and gas companies created a public nuisance by producing fossil fuels they knew would result in harmful emissions. New York City and several other local governments in California, Washington and Colorado have also sued on similar grounds.

“Reliable, affordable energy is not a public nuisance but a public necessity,” said R. Hewitt Pate, Chevron’s general counsel. “Using lawsuits to vilify the men and women who provide the energy we all need is neither honest nor constructive.”

Spokesmen for Shell and ConocoPhillips said the companies were pleased with the ruling. Representatives for Exxon and BP didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Alsup cited efforts by the executive branch to address the issue of global warming, creating a conflict with the courts:

Defendants in the Oakland and San Francisco cases argued that Congress has given the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate pollution effects under the Clean Air Act, and that the cases impinged on the agency’s powers.

Judge Alsup said the court “fully accepts the vast scientific consensus” that the burning of fossil fuels is leading global temperatures to increase and to “accelerated sea level rise.”

Yet he highlighted previous legal rulings which found the Clean Air Act, which grants the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to set emissions standards, displaces federal common law suits related to greenhouse gas emissions.

These suits, and others filed by several cities around the country, are different than the state attorney generals’ suit against Exxon. …

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