Enviro Lawyer’s Comments At NYC’s Climate Week Could Sink City’s Climate Crusade

Chris White | Energy Reporter
  • One attorney’s loose lips might sink New York City’s climate litigation against the oil industry.
  • New York City Law Department stays mum after a one of the attorney’s behind the city’s climate crusade let slip the lawsuit is about to hit the oil industry’s “bottom line.” 
  • The environmental lawyers behind New York City’s climate litigation is sending mixed signals about the reasoning behind the lawsuit.

One of the attorneys heading New York City’s climate litigation made comments in September that could seriously harm the city’s mission to sue oil companies for contributing to global warming.

New York City’s climate lawsuits are ultimately designed to target the industry’s financial bottom line, Susan Amron, the chief of the environmental law division of the New York City Law Department, said at a Sept. 26 panel discussion during the Climate Week NYC.

“So, we’re not saying you can’t use fossil fuels, that’s a different part of the city’s efforts,” Amron said during the panel, noting also that the lawsuit is designed to impress on companies the need to “internalize the costs” fossil fuels impose on cities.

She appeared to contradict herself a few sentences later, telling the audience that the intent is really to eliminate the oil industry’s license to operate. “And really what we’re trying to do is affect the bottom line- the financial equation for the use of fossil fuels,” she said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio made similar comments on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ podcast in January.

“We just acted, and I want to urge every city, every county, every state to do the same – divest. Divest from the fossil fuel industry,” De Blasio told the Vermont Democrat at the time. “Let’s help bring the death knell to this industry that’s done so much harm.”

The lawsuit was dismissed in July a handful of months after De Blasio made his comment. Judge John Keenan wrote in his opinion at the time that legislative branch was the appropriate arena to address global warming.

NYC’s lawsuit does appear to suggest the intent is not to destroy but rather to mitigate harm.

“The City does not seek to impose liability on Defendants for their direct emissions of greenhouse gases and does not seek to restrain Defendants from engaging in their business operations,” the city wrote in its complaint.

Amron’s admission will likely create challenges for the city’s appeal, which is slated to begin in front of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals soon.

Neither Amron nor New York City’s Law Department have responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for an explanation about the lawsuit is designed to hammer the oil industry or for mitigation purposes.

Other climate lawsuits across the country are similarly on the ropes.

Cities in California, Colorado and Rhode Island have also filed similar lawsuits against energy producers over the past year. They argue that Exxon and others should pony-up money for mitigation efforts designed to forestall the effects from climate change.

A judge dismissed lawsuits in Oakland and San Francisco, arguing that the U.S. Congress is only the governmental body responsible for enacting policies needed to mitigate global warming. Manufacturers and conservative groups worry trial attorneys are behind the spat of climate litigation.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP handled lawsuits on behalf of the two California cities and New York City in exchange for a percentage of any winnings, called a contingency fee. (RELATED: Trial Lawyers Handling Cities’ Global Warming Lawsuits Stand To Make Billions)

Hagens Berman stood to earn billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings, from a favorable judgement against oil companies. The three cities claimed billions of dollars’ worth of damage from global warming induced by fossil fuels.

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