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Manufacturers’ Progress Jeopardized by Baseless Lawsuits

With the World Gas Conference underway this week in Washington, D.C., the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP) is highlighting how manufacturers are leading the way in reducing their environmental footprint while providing jobs to millions of Americans.

Recently, Real Clear Policy featured an opinion piece from MAP Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre that discussed how manufacturers have made great strides in sustainability and emissions reductions but now face baseless lawsuits that could threaten the success of manufacturing in America:

“Manufacturers of all sectors and sizes are at risk from these efforts to expand public nuisance liability. These lawsuits attempt to set up a false choice between manufacturing and environmental stewardship. The truth is that manufacturers have worked hard to reduce their environmental footprint over the years, including by reducing emissions by 10 percent over the past 10 years while increasing their value to the economy by 19 percent. At the end of the day, these lawsuits won’t help workers, families, or the environment; they will harm the integrity of our legal system.”

To date, eleven jurisdictions in California, Colorado, New York City and Washington State have filed litigation that attempts to hold a handful of manufacturers responsible for the global issue of climate change. But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in similar cases that the regulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is principally a matter for Congress to decide—not the judiciary.  These lawsuits require time and resources that could be better spent on solutions.

This baseless litigation was dealt a severe legal blow this week when a federal judge ruled against the cities of San Francisco and Oakland. In his order to dismiss the cases, Judge William Alsup asked how the cities can hold oil companies liable for conduct that was expressly endorsed by Congress and the president.  “The court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches,” Alsup asked. “Our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible,” added Judge Alsup.

In the New York City case, Judge John Keenan likewise wondered if the city could hold the companies liable, asking, “Isn’t the plaintiff using the product that is the subject of this lawsuit?”

With legal precedent clear and judicial skepticism growing, the outlook for these lawsuits is dim. Yet that isn’t stopping trial attorneys from pushing these lawsuits in jurisdictions around the country.

Manufacturers are proud to provide the products that Americans rely on for their everyday lives and will continue their efforts in support of environmental stewardship. And the MAP will continue to push back against a baseless campaign to undermine these achievements in order to line the pockets of trial lawyers.