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ICYMI: MAP Co-Hosts Roundtable with California Mayors on Public Nuisance Litigation

Last week, the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association held a roundtable with California mayors marking the one-year anniversary of the first public nuisance-based climate lawsuits filed in the state. The roundtable featured discussion on the latest developments in the lawsuits, the effect of this baseless litigation on the manufacturing sector and the proper venue to address this global issue.

The discussion took place on the same day that U.S. District Judge John Keenan dismissed New York City’s climate lawsuit. In his ruling, Keenan wrote, “Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government.”

The MAP’s Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre began the discussion by highlighting their recently released reform principles addressing the public nuisance litigation that has spread to jurisdictions in California, New York, Colorado, Washington State, Rhode Island and now Maryland. She noted that the common-sense reform principles—transparency in contingency-fee agreements, pre-emptive legislation and immediate withdrawal of the lawsuits—are necessary to put an end to this frivolous litigation.

Dorothy Rothrock, President of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, warned that this litigation is creating new risks for manufacturers and is affecting their ability to invest and grow not only in California, but other states around the nation. As a result, she emphasized that all Californians have a stake in putting a stop to these frivolous lawsuits. 

Huntington Beach Mayor Mike Posey next discussed the national dialogue surrounding the restoration of our manufacturing base, pointing out that in order to make that possible, we will need energy. He argued that the nation will have a tough time sustaining that base if cities are suing companies that rely on energy. Mayor Posey also called out the hypocrisy of cities like San Francisco suing energy companies while at the same time being huge consumers of energy themselves.

Irvine Mayor Don Wagner cautioned other mayors from going outside their lane and establishing climate policies, something that is beyond what they are expected to do and that should be left to the higher levels of government. Echoing Judge Keenan’s dismissal ruling, Mayor Wagner noted that the courts are not equipped to handle this type of policy decisions. He urged his fellow mayors to focus on fixing their cities’ economies, not making climate change policies.

Next, La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw discussed the difficulties business owners face as they try to create jobs in California and how elected officials, who campaign on creating a strong local economy, often add to those difficulties. He advised other municipalities to refrain from filing these frivolous lawsuits as we need to make it easier, not harder, for businesses to create more jobs.

Hunton, Andrews, Kurth attorney Shannon Broome wrapped up the discussion by highlighting how the federal government has long been promoting the development and exploration of fossil fuels as doing so has changed our way of life and is good for Americans and for businesses. She warned other mayors who are approached by plaintiffs’ firms such as Hagens Berman not to take the bait, noting the lawsuits are unlikely to be successful and are a drain on the cities’ resources despite the lawyers’ claims that they will fund it all.

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