by Michael Bastasch
A federal judge tossed out a lawsuit brought against five major oil companies by New York City that demanded compensation for the alleged damages from man-made global warming.
“The Court recognizes that the City, and many other governmental entities around the United States and in other nations, will be forced to grapple with the harmful impacts of climate change in the coming decades,” U.S. District Judge John Keenan ruled on Thursday.
“However, 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,” Keenan ruled.
“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,” Keenan wrote for the court.
It’s the third such lawsuit brought against oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips. A U.S. District Court judge in Northern California struck down identical lawsuits in June brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.
Trial lawyers with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP handled climate lawsuits on behalf of the two California cities and New York City in exchange for a percentage of any winnings, called a contingency fee.
Hagens Berman stood to earn billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings, from a favorable judgement against oil companies. The three cities claimed billions of dollars worth of damage from global warming induced by fossil fuels.
Cities and trial lawyers argue the alleged effects of global warming, including sea level rise and extreme weather, violate public nuisance laws. Cities want oil companies to pay for past damages and future mitigation projects.
However, two judges have shot down this argument this year. Both judges found the Clean Air Act supplanted common law on global warming nuisance complaints, and ruling otherwise would circumvent elected officials.
“Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government,” Keenan wrote.
At least a dozen state and local governments have filed suit against fossil fuel companies over global warming since 2017, including six California cities and the state of Rhode Island.
Those lawsuits are also being handled by trial lawyers in exchange for a percentage of any winnings.
Hagens Berman, for example, is also handling a climate lawsuit against oil companies brought by King County, Washington.
“This case is, fundamentally, about shifting the costs of abatement back onto the companies,” reads King County’s complaint. “After all, it is Defendants who have profited and will continue to profit by knowingly contributing to global warming, thereby doing all they can to help create and maintain a profound public nuisance.”
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