Obama Interior Chief Disagrees With Climate Lawsuits

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Former President Barack Obama’s Interior Secretary took issue with environmentalists who resort to judicial activism for their climate change goals.

Ken Salazar — a former Democratic senator and the 50th secretary of the Interior under the Obama administration — addressed attendees on Thursday during the Colorado Petroleum Council’s annual luncheon in Denver. While speaking to members of the oil and gas industry, Salazar said he doesn’t believe the increasing trend by activists to file climate change-related lawsuits against energy companies is the best approach, arguing that such policies should be enacted by politicians, not judges.

“[I]in terms of environmental litigation which I know many of you are facing, we obviously have some lawsuits in several parts of the nation including here in Colorado around the issue of oil companies and climate and whether or not oil companies under a variety of theories including nuisance theories, are responsible for all the things that have gone on in climate,” Salazar stated, according to Western Wire.

“I don’t agree with those who take those positions into the courts,” he said, adding that environmental litigation will continue unless lawmakers do more to address the issue.

Salazar was referencing to the large number of lawsuits filed by climate change activists in recent years, with one high-profile case taking place in Colorado. Boulder County, San Miguel County and the City of Boulder are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor, accusing them of being responsible for man-made global warming. Their efforts are being supported by Earth Rights International, an environmental group that is involved in numerous lawsuits. (RELATED: Colorado Cities Spent A Year Planning How To Win Big On Climate Lawsuit Against Oil Companies)

A federal judge in California threw out two similar lawsuits in June that were filed by Oakland and San Francisco. That judge — much akin to Salazar’s  point — stated that such matters should be settled in Congress or an international forum.

While speaking at the luncheon, the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, also attacked judicial activism.

“And so in some ways I think over the past decade or two, we almost see more of an advocacy agenda creeping into the court system,” Gerard stated. “The courts have an appropriate role, as David said, and they should be there to interpret the law, which is their primary role, but I think it’s unfortunate that some believe now they want to try to use the courts as a tool of an advocacy agenda and I don’t think that’s appropriate.”

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