Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The fact a similar climate lawsuit in California was tossed out doesn’t seem to matter to Colorado public officials intent on wasting taxpayer’s money.
Why Colorado thinks it has a chance to make oil companies pay for climate change
The most important climate change fights right now are in state courtrooms.
By Umair Irfan Updated Jul 5, 2018, 2:35pm EDT
Nine cities and counties in Colorado, California, Washington, and New York, as well as the state of Rhode Island, have filed lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, with oil giants Exxon and BP among the defendants. The goal is to make the oil majors liable for the greenhouse gases produced from their products and the local damages of climate change: rising average temperatures, melting snowpack, extreme weather like rainstorms and drought, and higher seas.
In an era with a Congress weak on climate policy and an executive branch hostile to even acknowledging climate change, courts remain some of the few avenues left to hold industry accountable for greenhouse gas emissions.
But last week, a federal judge dismissed lawsuits filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against the five largest investor-owned oil companies in the world. While that was a federal court case and the Colorado suits are in state court, it shows that some judges aren’t convinced and a tough legal fight lies ahead.
Like the lawsuits filed in California and Rhode Island, the cases in Colorado invoke public nuisance law. The idea is that greenhouse gas emissions and all their consequences interfere with how the general public can use their homes, their farmland, and their recreation areas. The producers of this pollution are therefore liable for damages and losses.
The Colorado suits also invoke the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, since the plaintiffs claim Exxon and Suncor deployed deceptive trade practices. A key question, however, is the scope of such a claim. Here, the courts are divided. In California, one judge ruled that climate lawsuits should be heard in federal court. Another California judge kept lawsuits filed by cities in state court.
I don’t understand why Colorado officials don’t insist oil companies immediately stop supplying their nuisance product to the citizens of Colorado.
Imagine for a moment that the fight was over say a food additive which was discovered to be harmful to human health. Wouldn’t the first step be an injunction to stop the use of that food additive, pending outcome of the court case?
Why don’t greens insist on an immediate injunction against use of nuisance petroleum products they claim were sold due to misleading advertising, in cities and counties which are suing the oil companies?