The Supreme Court gives Big Oil a win in the Baltimore climate change lawsuit
The judges said the lower court ruling was wrong and they need to re-examine whether Big Oil is right about the lawsuit in federal rather than state court.
The Supreme Court delivered a huge win to oil and gas companies on Monday after judges decided to refer Baltimore’s climate change lawsuit back to a lower court.
Baltimore, notes that the Wall Street Journal first filed the lawsuit in a Maryland court in 2018.
In its complaint, the city alleged that energy companies had not adequately warned the general public about the dangers of their products – despite having known for years that fossil fuel use had contributed to global warming. Baltimore went on to claim the city suffered a variety of climate change-related injuries, including higher sea levels and extreme weather.
While Baltimore sought damages – and was later backed by a number of other state and city governments – the Supreme Court put the challenge on hold pending further review.
According to the New York Times, the court’s ruling did not address the grounds of the lawsuit. Instead, the bank addressed technical issues with the plaintiffs’ filing, mainly related to “narrow questions regarding the rules for appealing to lower court decisions referring cases to state courts”.
Air pollution at sunrise; Image by SD-Pictures, via Pixabay, CC0.
Now the judges are asking the fourth circuit appeals court to do just that: reconsider the oil industry’s request that the fourth circuit review a lower court decision that would allow the lawsuit to stand before a state court.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the defendants in the case – including BP, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil – had specifically asked for the case to be transferred from Maryland State Court to federal, believing that federal justice was a “fairer one.” “Has procedural protection.
In addition, every energy company had claimed that some of its oil and gas exploration efforts were commissioned by the federal government itself.
In 2019, a federal judge rejected the companies’ application. and then, in 2020, a federal appeals court said it had no power to change the place of jurisdiction.
However, Judge Neil Gorsuch, who wrote on behalf of the court’s 7-1 majority, said the appeals court’s decision was wrong and ordered him to review his final decision.
The Wall Street Journal notes that only Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed, while Justice Samuel Alito pulled out because of his stakes in the energy sector.
Although the Supreme Court order could benefit the defendant companies in the long term, the New York Times legal experts believed that this ruling was not what the industry wanted.
Even so, Baltimore has waited at least three years for the case to simply go to trial – and now, following the Supreme Court ruling, they may be waiting years.
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