Attorney General Becerra Supports City of Baltimore in its Lawsuit to Hold Accountable Big Oil for Climate Change

Tuesday, September 3, 2019
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as a part of a multistate coalition of nine attorneys general, 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 from sea-level rise and other effects.

“Our cities and communities pay the price when big oil companies ignore the devastating consequences of increased fossil fuel production,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Taxpayers continue to bear the immense burden of preventing and repairing the damage of rising sea levels and extreme weather events caused by the climate crisis. We ask the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the rights of local governments seeking to protect Americans who suffer the costs of climate change by allowing this case to proceed in state court, where it belongs.” 

The City of Baltimore alleges that the oil companies’ conduct exacerbates global warming and its impacts, 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. 

The case is currently pending in the Fourth Circuit after the oil companies appealed a district court decision that ruled the suit belongs in the state court. In the brief, the coalition asserts that the district court decision should be affirmed. The coalition argues that:

  • States play an important role in addressing climate change and protecting human welfare, including providing a forum to decide cases related to climate change;
  • The Clean Air Act recognizes the states’ role in reducing air pollution and does not indicate that the federal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving climate change; and
  • The oil companies’ appealed to transfer the city’s claim to federal court, knowing that similar claims have been displaced by Congress, which could unjustly deny plaintiffs a remedy for harm.

Attorney General Becerra has filed similar briefs in support of local governments seeking to hold oil companies accountable including: 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.

A copy of the brief can be found here.

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