State and local lawsuits seeking damages for climate change face critical legal challenges

Lawsuits seeking damages for climate change face critical legal challenges

InsideClimate News | David Hasemyer With a dozen state and local governments in court seeking damages related to climate change from fossil fuel companies, the U.S. Supreme Court may be the final stop for an industry seeking protection from billion dollar verdicts. At some point, one of the lawsuits is likely to drop into the lap of the high court and its newly cemented conservative block of justices.

Rhode Island, Baltimore, tiny Imperial Beach, California and the other localities for the most part want the cases tried in state court and out of federal jurisdiction, arguing that climate-induced extreme weather linked to oil and gas consumption has led to billions in property damage and huge remediation costs.

ExxonMobil, Chevron, Phillips 66 and the other oil and gas giants, on the other hand, have gone to federal court over the issue of jurisdiction, arguing that the Clean Air Act and other federal laws preempt any claim under state law that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels cause climate change and related property damage.

On both sides, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The localities and a 13th plaintiff—the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations—want to make the fossil fuel industry responsible for the cost of sea level rise, more intense wildfires, hurricanes and flooding that climate scientists attribute to a warming planet.