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Big Oil companies ask Supreme Court to intervene in high-stakes climate case

The fossil fuel industry is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a series of key questions related to ongoing litigation accusing it of causing global warming.

A coalition of major oil companies are asking the Supreme Court to rule on a key aspect of numerous ongoing nationwide lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states, accusing the companies of deceiving the public about their role in causing global warming.

In a petition for writ of certiorari filed Wednesday, the oil companies — including Sunoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66, among others — asked the high court to intervene in a climate case filed against them by the City and County of Honolulu. They said a Supreme Court judgment in the case could have far-reaching impacts on the other similar cases filed by other jurisdictions.

“Rarely does a case of such extraordinary importance to one of the nation’s most vital industries come before this Court,” the companies wrote in the filing. “Energy companies that produce, sell, and market fossil fuels are facing numerous lawsuits in state courts across the Nation seeking billions of dollars in damages for injuries allegedly caused by global climate change.”


“This case presents the Court with its only foreseeable opportunity in the near future to decide a dispositive question that is arising in every climate-change case: whether federal law precludes state-law claims seeking redress for injuries allegedly caused by the effects of interstate and international greenhouse-gas emissions on the global climate,” the filing continued.

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The companies requested the Supreme Court specifically “review and clarify” whether state law is able to impose the costs of global climate change “on a subset of the world’s energy producers” chosen by plaintiffs in the case.

“Without this Court’s intervention, years might pass before another opportunity to address this pressing question comes along,” it added.

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The case dates back nearly four years when, in March 2020, Honolulu officials announced they had sued the companies for damages related to climate change and for deceiving the public about their fossil fuel products’ potential impact on global warming. 

Honolulu is one of more than a dozen major jurisdictions to file such a lawsuit against oil companies in recent years. Overall, states and cities including California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Baltimore, which collectively represent more than 25% of Americans, are pursuing similar litigation.

The fossil fuel industry has unsuccessfully attempted to move some of the cases from state courts, where they have been filed, to federal courts. In January, the Supreme Court declined to weigh in on that question, forcing the cases back to state courthouses.

But the filing Wednesday represents the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to review issues around the merits. It particularly calls on the court to recognize that the federal Clean Air Act effectively preempts state law and that state laws are unable to provide “relief for global climate change.”

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“State court litigation is not a constitutionally permissible means to establish global climate and energy policy,” Theodore Boutrous, who serves as counsel for Chevron Corporation, said in a written statement to Fox News Digital. “As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in dismissing a similar New York City lawsuit, ‘such a sprawling case is simply beyond the limits of state law.’”

In a separate statement, Phil Goldberg, special counsel for the National Association of Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, called for the Supreme Court to grant the petition.

“Regulating the worldwide production and use of energy — as the plaintiffs’ case attempts to do — is simply beyond the limits of any individual state’s law,” Goldberg said. “Trying to apply Hawaii state law to climate change here is directly at odds with these rulings, and the Supreme Court should take this case to make sure that states properly follow its jurisprudence.”

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The Honolulu case, along with a large share of the other similar cases filed by state and local governments, is being spearheaded by the California law firm Sher Edling. Sher Edling, which was founded in 2016 with the stated goal of taking on such litigation, states on its website that its climate practice seeks to hold oil companies accountable for their alleged “deception” about climate change.

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Sher Edling’s work has received the support of environmentalists and nonprofit groups that argue climate litigation is an important tool for fighting global warming.

“In light of the growing body of evidence of Big Oil’s climate fraud and deception, and lower courts’ continued rejection of their efforts to escape trial, it’s no surprise that fossil fuel companies are once again attempting to escape accountability,” Alyssa Johl, vice president of legal and general counsel at the Center for Climate Integrity, told Fox News Digital. 

“Communities across the country deserve their day in court to hold Big Oil accountable for their climate lies and the damages they’ve caused.”

Sher Edling didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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