Legal Experts Accuse New York Climate Crusaders Of Overstepping The Law

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Several attorneys general and legal experts accused New York Thursday of overstepping the law after the state leveled lawsuits against energy companies for supposedly contributing to man-made global warming.

Attorneys general from Indiana, Alabama, Texas and several others filed amicus briefs in support of fossil fuels companies as New York City appeals the dismissal of its climate change lawsuit.  New York University Law Professor Richard Epstein and the Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) added their support for the companies as well.

“New York City’s effort to use New York’s state common law of public nuisance to regulate global climate change presents issues of extraordinary importance to the Amici States, for it attempts to extend New York law across not only the United States, but the entire world,” the states noted.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan dismissed the lawsuit in July 2018, arguing that litigating such an action “for injuries from foreign greenhouse gas emissions in federal court would severely infringe upon the foreign-policy decisions that are squarely within the purview of the political branches of the U.S government.”

It’s the third such lawsuit brought against oil companies ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips. A U.S. District Court judge in Northern California struck down identical lawsuits in 2018 brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland. The WLF brief made similar comments in its brief.

Environmental activist protests against fossil fuel in front of the venue of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland December 10, 2018. Agencja Gazeta/Grzegorz Celejewski via REUTERS

“Whether it admits it or not, however, the city seeks both to direct national public policy and to instigate a tort-law revolution,” the group noted in their court document. WLF’s briefs also come as supporters for the energy companies criticize the trial attorneys behind the litigation. (RELATED: Judge Tosses Out New York City’s Climate Change Lawsuit)

Hagens Berman, for instance, stood to earn billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings, from a favorable judgment against oil companies. San Francisco, New York City and Oakland claimed billions of dollars worth of damage from global warming induced by fossil fuels.

Epstein meanwhile has long been skeptical of such lawsuits. Thursday’s brief was no exception.

“The city’s claims, if allowed, would expand the law of public nuisance far beyond its common law foundations, and, in doing so, would lead to a morass of litigation that would produce arbitrary, inconsistent and ill-considered outcomes in multiple jurisdictions in the United States and even overseas,” he stated.

Manufacturers also blasted off against New York City’s appeal.

The National Association of Manufacturers argued that New York City must avoid using climate talk to bludgeon the energy industry. “Defendants are engaged in the production and sale of lawful products essential to modern life. The City must not be allowed to turn the promotion and sale of energy into a liability-inducing event.”

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