Attorney General Becerra Files Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Support of Baltimore’s Effort to Hold Big Oil Accountable for Climate Change Impacts in Their Community
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, as a part of a multistate coalition, filed an amicus brief supporting the mayor and city council of Baltimore in their lawsuit Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP, et al. In the lawsuit, the city seeks to hold oil companies accountable under state law for their actions contributing to climate change and the resulting harms to their community from sea-level rise and other effects. After the U.S. Court of Appeals and District Court rejected the oil companies' attempt to remove the case from state court, the companies appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the amicus brief, the attorneys general urge the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and highlight that all but one circuit court that has addressed this issue reached the same conclusion about state jurisdiction.
“We support the City of Baltimore’s effort to hold oil companies accountable for their role in creating the climate crisis,” said Attorney General Becerra. “We urge the Supreme Court to allow this case to proceed in state court, where it belongs.
In their lawsuit, the City of Baltimore alleges that the oil companies’ misinformation campaign regarding their products and global warming exacerbated the impacts of climate change, including hotter temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea level, and other irreversible harms – leaving local governments to manage the full costs of inundation, erosion, flooding, property damage, and threats to the health and safety of residents. Oil companies appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court after lower court decisions that ruled the suit belongs in the state court.
In the amicus brief, the coalition asserts that the lower courts decisions should be affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized a policy of “avoiding prolonged litigation on threshold nonmerits questions” and promptly returning matters to state court once a federal district court has determined that there is no basis for removal. A common tactic of defendants is to attempt to remove enforcement actions by the States to federal court, in order to delay the state-court proceedings and any resulting adverse judgments. Such delays have been particularly disruptive in lawsuits brought by state and local government to address the effects of climate change. Given the near unanimity of the circuit courts and clear Congressional intent on this matter, the coalition urges the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and allow this case to proceed in state court.
Attorney General Becerra has filed similar briefs in support of local governments seeking to hold oil companies accountable including: a brief supporting the State of Rhode Island in its lawsuit, State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Company LLC et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in support of the mayor and city council of Baltimore in their lawsuit, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP, et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the city of Oakland and the city and county of San Francisco in their lawsuit, City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco. v. BP, et al.; a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the counties of Marin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, and the cities of Imperial Beach, Richmond, and Santa Cruz in their lawsuit, County of San Mateo et al. v. Chevron Corporation; and a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in support of New York City in its lawsuit, City of New York. v. Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief.
A copy of the amicus brief can be found here.