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Climate Litigation Support Nowhere to be Found at House Climate Committee Hearing in Boulder, Colorado

Yesterday, the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis hosted its first field hearing in Boulder, Colorado, to discuss the state’s roadmap for clean energy using lessons learned from state and local leaders. Panelists included Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones and faculty from Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. The panel discussed a broad range of practical measures that cities, counties and states can take that can make a difference in the fight against climate change. Notably, at no point during the hearing did anyone, including Mayor Jones or the University of Colorado faculty, suggest that public nuisance lawsuits against energy manufacturers are an appropriate part of this comprehensive approach to climate change.

This omission is striking for Mayor Jones and the university’s faculty because Boulder, Colorado, is one of a handful of communities to have filed such a lawsuit and the university’s law school dean recently held a forum that can best be described as a promotional event for the lawyers pushing the litigation. Perhaps the omission of the lawsuit from this serious discussion about climate change is a tacit acknowledgement that innovation and collaboration—not litigation—is the proper path for lowering carbon emissions and addressing climate impacts in Colorado and elsewhere.

Indeed, lawmakers and witnesses talked through a wide variety of practical climate change measures, including electrifying buildings through solar panel deployment, electric vehicle charging stations and overall grid efficiency advancements. For example,

  • The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), said in her opening statement that lawmakers’ policy responsibility is to “make sure clean technology can move from the lab to the market.” Her objective is to help businesses deploy even cleaner technologies under development into the marketplace.
  • Heidi VanGenderen, chief sustainability officer for the University of Colorado Boulder, in written testimony praised the robust climate-focused research and development at her university. She cited research to develop “nanobio-hybrid organisms capable of using airborne carbon dioxide and nitrogen to produce a variety of plastics and fuels.” This technology will produce a variety of manufacturing inputs that contribute to the emissions reductions manufacturing industries have already achieved.
  • Committee member Representative Garret Graves (R-LA) highlighted emissions reductions across the U.S., which he noted greatly outpaced reductions of other industrialized countries. This is certainly a nod to manufacturers and businesses in America who, in the past decade, have made significant strides in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while increasing contributions to the country’s economy. They have also led the way in pursuing innovative technology to continue their success in reducing their environmental footprint.

These solution-oriented comments underscore the effectiveness of public-private collaborations and innovation—again, not litigation—as the best approaches for combatting climate change.

The Manufacturers’ Accountability Project is encouraged that yesterday’s hearing focused on meaningful solutions to climate change rather than fruitless efforts like baseless lawsuits that have failed in the courts time and again. Mayor Jones should withdraw her city’s lawsuit and focus on these and other actions that can actually make a difference in the fight against climate change.