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The National Association of Manufacturers Files Amicus Briefs in First & Fourth Circuits

Last month, the National Association of Manufacturers filed amicus briefs in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First and Fourth Circuits, urging the courts to reverse district courts’ orders remanding climate tort lawsuits from Rhode Island and Baltimore, respectively, to state court.

The cases were sent back to the circuit courts in May for new rulings on whether the cases should proceed in state or federal court, after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal appellate courts to consider additional arguments made by the manufacturers.

In a 12-page brief filed in conjunction with the Energy Marketers of America and National Association of Convenience Stores, the NAM explains that Rhode Island’s lawsuit “undermines important national energy objectives, including federal efforts on the climate, along with energy independence, the stability of the electric grid, and energy affordability.”

The three groups were also joined by the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America in their amicus brief supporting the manufacturers in Baltimore’s case.

Both briefs underscore the fact that climate change is a national, and indeed global, problem, and cases touching on climate policy should be heard in federal court. As the brief before the First Circuit states, “Lawsuits alleging that energy manufacturers can be subject to untold liability for local harms caused by global climate change should not be the result of state-by-state ad hoc rulings. Only uniform federal law can supply the uniform governing standards that can be applied here.”

Other highlights from the NAM’s amicus briefs include:

  • “For years the law has been clear: regardless of how the claims were packaged—whether over energy use or products, by public or private plaintiffs, under federal or state law, or for injunctive relief or damages—litigation alleging harms from effects of global climate change implicates uniquely federal interests.”
  • “Supporters of this litigation campaign have used political-style tactics, both to drive the litigation and to leverage the litigation to achieve their true, extrajudicial goals. … Thus, unlike traditional state tort suits, success here includes merely filing and maintaining state suits they can use for national policy goals.”
  • “The bottom line is state courts are not positioned to decide who, if anyone, is to be legally accountable for climate change, how energy policies should change to address it, and how local mitigation projects should be funded.”
  • “Outside of court, [Rhode Island] has already admitted the true goal of this litigation is to impose its own energy policies on the rest of the country. In the press release announcing the suit, the Governor said the litigation is about ‘standing up together against the Trump Administration’s actions.’”

Several other parties, including a group of fifteen attorneys general, have also filed amicus briefs in support of the manufacturers, signaling the importance of the arguments at hand.