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Court upholds dismissal of New York City lawsuit against oil companies


A U.S. circuit court on Thursday upheld a district court’s decision to dismiss a New York City lawsuit seeking damages for climate change from five multinational oil firms.

In its decision, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, saying the city’s allegations against the companies were not a matter for a state court. The three-judge panel ruled that enforcement of the Clean Air Act falls under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“First, global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. As a result, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law. Second, the Clean Air Act grants the Environmental Protection Agency  not federal courts  the authority to regulate domestic greenhouse gas emissions,” Circuit Judge Richard Sullivan wrote.

“Federal common law actions concerning such emissions are therefore displaced,” Sullivan added. “Lastly, while the Clean Air Act has nothing to say about regulating foreign emissions, judicial caution and foreign policy concerns counsel against permitting such claims to proceed under federal common law absent congressional direction. And since no such permission exists, each of the City’s claims is barred and its complaint must be dismissed.”

City spokesman Nick Paolucci told Reuters that officials were disappointed the court did not hold the companies “accountable for the environmental damage they knew their products would cause.”

Separately, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island are currently suing fossil fuel companies on similar grounds.

In January, the Supreme Court heard arguments on another lawsuit filed by Baltimore, with the city seeking to keep the suit in state court and the defendants arguing it belongs in federal court. A decision is expected later in the year, according to Politico.

Tags BP Chevron ExxonMobil New York City Shell

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