States Bring Fight to Supreme Court to Curb Anti-Oil Lawsuits

June 7, 2024

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In an effort to halt a multi-state move against fossil fuel–producing companies, a coalition of 19 states recently brought suit against California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island to prevent any legal action against companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, and BP.

Lawsuits against these companies is nothing new, as more than two dozen cities, counties and states have filed similar suits starting in 2017. The latest battle began last September when California Governor Gavin Newsom filed a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and the American Petroleum Institute “for allegedly engaging in a decades-long campaign of deception and creating statewide climate change-related harms in California.” The suit calls for the named defendants to not only reduce the overall climate effects to the state and its residents, but also make payments into an abatement fund “to address the public nuisance” and contribute to efforts to reduce destruction of its natural resources, as well as award compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages.

Led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the lawsuit is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to “declare unconstitutional the efforts of California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island to dictate the future of American energy policy.” Marshall and his coalition boil the contested lawsuits as a demand for “a global carbon tax on the traditional energy industry.”

“On their view, a small gas station in rural Alabama could owe damages to the people of Minnesota simply for selling a gallon of gas,” states the brief. “If Defendant States are right about the substance and reach of state law, their actions imperil access to affordable energy everywhere and inculpate every State and indeed every person on the planet. Consequently, Defendant States threaten not only our system of federalism and equal sovereignty among States, but our basic way of life.”

Citing the incoming way of electric vehicles, Marshall writes that the vehicles are still powered by natural gas and coal due to their reliance on the energy grid for charging.

Alabama, along with member states Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming, is asking the Court to stop the plaintiff states from imposing liability beyond their borders and affecting the promotion, sale, or use of fossil fuels in other states.