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Mayor Tim Shaw: Local Governments Should Say No to Misguided Public Nuisance Lawsuits

This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion to address the public nuisance-based climate lawsuits in California. The event, held just following the one-year anniversary of the first misguided lawsuits in our state, included mayors from California cities and representatives from the California Manufacturers & Technology Association and the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project.

As a mayor, I am deeply concerned about the effects these lawsuits could have on California’s economy and the threats they could pose to manufacturing in our region. I am frankly appalled that any local government would endorse these kinds of lawsuits, which pose great danger to jobs and investment in California. Let me explain why.

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Baltimore Sun: Baltimore files suit against oil and gas companies for their role in spurring climate change

Baltimore’s top lawyer filed a lawsuit Friday against more than two dozen oil and gas companies that do business in the city, seeking to hold them financially responsible for their contributions to global climate change.

City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said the city will argue the companies violated state laws, including a consumer protection statute, by concealing and disputing links between fossil fuel emissions and climate change.

“The companies knew of the harm decades ago,” the former federal judge said. “If it had been disclosed, the problem of climate change could have been mitigated significantly. That’s our claim.”

The lawsuit, filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, follows more than a dozen similar complaints filed by governments around the country — some of which judges have quickly tossed.

Just Thursday, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit New York City officials filed against oil companies, echoing a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that called climate change “an undertaking for the political branches” of government.

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Washington Times: Baltimore joins liberal cities seeking compensation from oil industry for climate change

Baltimore officials moved forward with a lawsuit Friday seeking to hold the petroleum industry financially responsible for climate change, a day after a judge threw out a similar claim filed by New York City.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Solicitor Andre M. Davis said the city had filed a complaint in state court against 26 companies, arguing that the firms should compensate the city for damages allegedly caused by global warming.

“Baltimore has suffered, for example, two 1,000-year storms in the last couple of years,” Mr. Davis said at a press conference. “This is not right, this is not something we should permit to go uncompensated. And so we intend to seek relief.”

The timing of the Baltimore lawsuit was curious, given that U.S. District Court Judge John Keenan dismissed New York City’s lawsuit on Thursday, saying the matter should be resolved by the legislative and executive branches, not the judiciary.

Mr. Davis pointed out that those rulings were made by federal judges, while Baltimore has filed its complaint in state court, and that none of the decisions has so far gone through the appeals process.

“What we hope through this lawsuit is to take our claims to state court judges here in Maryland, who we believe will look at the matter afresh and see that we have legitimate claims of compensation,” Mr. Davis said.

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Daily Caller: Baltimore picks an inopportune moment to jump aboard climate lawsuit frenzy

Baltimore city officials are suing oil companies Friday for supposedly contributing to man-made global warming.

The city’s decision to sue comes a day after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from New York city officials leveled against Exxon and others. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and city Solicitor Andre Davis will discuss elements of the lawsuit at a Friday news conference.

Cities in California, Colorado and Rhode Island have also filed similar lawsuits against energy producers over the past year. They argue that Exxon and others should pony-up money for mitigation efforts designed to forestall the effects from climate change.

Another judge dismissed the lawsuits in Oakland and San Francisco, arguing that the U.S. Congress is only the governmental body responsible for enacting policies needed to mitigate global warming. Manufacturers and conservative groups worry trial attorneys are behind the spat of climate litigation.

Trial lawyers with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP handled climate lawsuits on behalf of the two California cities and New York City in exchange for a percentage of any winnings, called a contingency fee.

Hagens Berman stood to earn billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings, from a favorable judgement against oil companies. The three cities claimed billions of dollars worth of damage from global warming induced by fossil fuels.

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San Francisco Chronicle: Judge throws out SF and Oakland climate suits against big oil

A federal judge Monday tossed out two groundbreaking lawsuits by San Francisco and Oakland that sought to hold some of the world’s largest oil companies liable for climate change.

In an exhaustive, 16-page ruling that touched on such scientific matters as the ice age and early observations of carbon dioxide, U.S. District Judge William Alsup acknowledged the problem of a warming planet but said it is just too big for the courts to solve.

The cities are trying to get five oil and gas giants, including Bay Area-based Chevron, to help cover the costs of dealing with sea-level rise, like picking up the tab for seawalls. However, Alsup, noting that Congress and the White House, not the judiciary, are responsible for addressing the fallout from fossil fuels, granted the industry’s request to dismiss the suits.

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E&E News: Judge accepts science but tosses cases against oil companies

A federal court judge yesterday threw out lawsuits from two California cities seeking to make oil companies pay for worsening sea-level rise and other climate change impacts.

Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the request from five oil companies seeking dismissal of the cases brought by San Francisco and Oakland. They were suing Chevron Corp., BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, arguing that the companies make and sell products that when combusted create a public nuisance. The cities also contended that the companies knew the global dangers for decades and hid that information while protecting their assets.

Alsup, a Clinton appointee who in March held a high-profile “tutorial” on climate science, said evaluating blame for warming impacts is a political issue and not one for the courts to decide.

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Wall Street Journal: Judge Dismisses Climate Suits Targeting Big Oil Companies

A federal judge on Monday dismissed lawsuits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland alleging that five of the world’s largest oil companies should pay to protect the cities’ residents from the impacts of climate change.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup granted a motion by the companies— BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp. , ConocoPhillips and Chevron Corp. —to dismiss the suits, ruling that while global warming was a real threat, it must be fixed “by our political branches.”

“The dangers raised in the complaints are very real,” he wrote. “But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case.”

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The New York Times: Federal Judge Dismisses Cities’ Suit Against Oil Companies Over Costs of Climate Change

A federal judge on Monday threw out a closely watched lawsuit brought by two California cities against fossil fuel companies over the costs of dealing with climate change. The decision is a stinging defeat for the plaintiffs, San Francisco and Oakland, and raises warning flags for other local governments around the United States that have filed similar suits, including New York City.

The judge, William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco, acknowledged the science of global warming and the great risks to the planet, as did the oil and gas companies being sued. But in his ruling, Judge Alsup said the courts were not the proper place to deal with such global issues, and he rejected the legal theory put forth by the cities.

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Associated Press: US Judge throws out climate change lawsuits against big oil

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A U.S. judge who held a hearing about climate change that received widespread attention ruled Monday that Congress and the president were best suited to address the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming, throwing out lawsuits that sought to hold big oil companies liable for the Earth’s changing environment.

Noting that the world has also benefited significantly from oil and other fossil fuel, Judge William Alsup said questions about how to balance the “worldwide positives of the energy” against its role in global warming “demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate.”

“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” he said.

Alsup’s ruling came in lawsuits brought by San Francisco and neighboring Oakland that accused Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell of long knowing that fossil fuels posed serious risks to the environment, but still promoting them as environmentally responsible.

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