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MAP Takes the Case Against Climate Litigation to the Garden State

Recently, some New Jersey public officials have taken an unfortunate, unproductive approach to tackling climate change. The state Senate Environment and Energy Committee passed a climate litigation resolution over the summer, and the City of Hoboken has filed a lawsuit against energy manufacturers. The Manufacturers’ Accountability Project weighed in on both developments, making the case that innovation and collaboration—not ineffective litigation—are the proven solutions to climate change. 

MAP Special Counsel Phil Goldberg sent a letter to the members of the New Jersey State Senate expressing opposition to Senate Resolution 57, which urges Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to pursue legal action against energy companies for damages caused by climate change. The letter outlines the reasons why manufacturers oppose the resolution and calls on the New Jersey Senate to “focus its attention on approaches to climate change that will actually make a difference.” Goldberg further wrote:

“The reason that opposing S.R. 57 is a priority for the manufacturing community generally is that S.R. 57 is not just about energy manufacturers, but all manufacturers. It sets a dangerous legal and public policy precedent. Many products including those made here in New Jersey—from household cleaners to food—have risks but are still lawful and highly beneficial. Balancing these public benefits and risks, particularly as social values and risk tolerance change, is the job of this body, Congress and regulatory agencies that can set forward-looking policies.

“Energy policy, in particular, involves an array of state, national and international concerns, including climate change and the ability of families and businesses to pay more for energy. This is why climate lawsuits have failed. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the previous climate suit New Jersey brought with others states and New York City. It unanimously rejected it. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the Court in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, explained that Congress and the EPA are ‘better equipped’ to factor concerns over climate change into the nation’s energy policy ‘than individual district judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case’ decisions. The court called for a national legislative solution. This latest round of climate litigation is no different.”

The City of Hoboken moved ahead on its own accord with Mayor Ravi Bhalla announcing a lawsuit had been filed against several energy manufacturers. The MAP swiftly responded in a statement from Goldberg:

“These politically-motivated legal actions over climate change have no place in the courtroom, which is why every court to reach the substance of the allegations has dismissed them—including the U.S. Supreme Court. Just last year, a judge in New York called similar allegations ‘hyperbolic’ in dismissing a lawsuit there. Making and selling us the energy we all need to be part of modern society is not a liability-inducing event. If Hoboken wanted to make a real difference in the fight against global climate change, it would focus on working with manufacturers to foster the policies and innovations required to address this challenge—as the overwhelming majority of communities have done—and not join this fringe litigation movement.”

Manufacturers are all in on the fight against climate change, but to really make a difference on this shared global challenge, we need meaningful and innovative solutions that can only be achieved through collaboration with—not litigation against—the manufacturing community.