ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS, along with the National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Truck Stop Operators and the Energy Marketers of America, on August 13 filed a legal brief arguing that a climate lawsuit brought by the city of Baltimore against many of the largest oil companies in the nation should be tried in federal rather than state court.
The brief followed a successful outcome in the case of bp v. Baltimore in which NACS supported the defendants in arguing that it should be easier to move climate change litigation to federal courts.
In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 in the case that federal appeals courts have jurisdiction to examine all of the arguments the litigants made on whether such lawsuits belong in federal or state courts. The high court ruled that the 4th Circuit erred in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider all of the defendants’ grounds for removal.
The Supreme Court then sent the case back to the 4th Circuit to reconsider whether the case should be tried in federal or state court based on the Supreme Court’s new ruling. The brief filed by NACS argues that the 4th Circuit should now conclude that the case belongs in federal court.
A number of states and cities have worked with environmental groups in recent years to file lawsuits against companies in the oil industry in an attempt to make them pay for the costs of climate change. These suits are part of a coordinated strategy to assign legal blame for climate change in the past (and for the future).
On August 4, NACS filed a brief in a similar case filed by the state of Rhode Island. These cases are all in early stages as the principal questions considered so far have been whether state or federal courts should hear them. The suits have all been filed in state courts based on a theory by the plaintiffs that they will be more likely to prevail there. In each case, the defendants have argued that these are federal legal questions and should be removed to federal courts.
The Baltimore and Rhode Island cases will set the tone for how these cases are handled by the courts moving forward and, relatedly, how much effort environmental groups may continue to put into their legal strategy.