To date, the string of misguided public nuisance lawsuits filed in multiple states has singled out only energy manufacturers. Yet they threaten to envelop the broader manufacturing sector, given their broad interpretation of the public nuisance legal theory, which, if accepted by the courts, could expose other manufacturers to liability in the future for merely selling their products.
In a recent joint op-ed published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons and Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Tom Feeney highlight the legal stumbling blocks these current lawsuits—which seek to hold manufacturers liable for the impacts of climate change—have hit in the courts, noting that litigation is not the solution:
“So far, lawsuits filed by New York City, San Francisco and Oakland have been rejected by federal judges for commonsense reasons. The courts have appreciated that manufacturing and selling oil, gas and other sources of energy provides a staple of modern life; it is no reason to be sued. Floridians should take climate change seriously, but suing energy manufacturers is not the solution.”
Furthermore, they caution Florida’s elected officials from embracing this failed approach:
“A patchwork of lawsuits that turn local employers into adversaries is a counter-productive way of dealing with climate change—be them in California, New York or here in Florida. And it is certainly not a solution our elected officials should embrace. We need policies that allow Florida’s businesses and environment both to thrive. Litigation is not a proper, nor effective means of achieving either.”
Timmons and Feeney conclude by urging cooperation instead of litigation to combat climate change:
“At the end of the day, the better answer is for manufacturers, other businesses and concerned citizens to work with elected officials to combat the effects of climate change. Through sound legislative policies that encompass environmental protection while encouraging economic growth at the same time, we can make more of an impact than any lawsuit ever could.”
If allowed to continue unchallenged, these public nuisance lawsuits could have far-reaching consequences, jeopardizing the manufacturing jobs of millions of hard-working Americans and the environmental progress manufacturers have made in recent years to reduce their carbon footprint.