Overnight Energy & Environment

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court to decide whether climate suit can go to federal court | Green groups launch ‘Green Wave 2020’ initiative to boost competitive Democratic campaigns

Greg Nash

TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill’s roundup of the latest energy and environment news. Please send tips and comments to Rebecca Beitsch at rbeitsch@thehill.com. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccabeitsch. Reach Rachel Frazin at rfrazin@thehill.com or follow her on Twitter: @RachelFrazin.

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CHECK OUT THIS VENUE! The Supreme Court says it will hear arguments over whether the city of Baltimore’s lawsuit against several oil companies can be moved to federal court. 

The high court on Friday granted oil companies’ request to review the issue. The companies are currently being sued by the Baltimore city government, which alleges that their production and misleading marketing of fossil fuels has exacerbated climate change. 

The city has pushed for the case to remain in state court, while the oil companies want it in federal court.

Ann Carlson, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles’s law school, said that oil companies may believe that they’re more likely to receive favorable treatment in federal court because of certain precedents, federal judges’ discomfort with these kinds of suits over issues such as separation of powers and an increase in conservatives appointed to the bench under the Trump administration. 

“It probably improves the odds for oil companies prevailing, but it by no means guarantees it,” said Carlson, who has done some pro-bono consulting for the accusers in these types of cases.

She said that the issue of the case is not whether it belongs in federal or state court, but rather whether companies have to wait until the case ends in trial court to appeal it to federal court. 

Carlson added in a follow-up email that appealing to federal court earlier in the process “will slow the cases down further and give the oil companies the chance to persuade federal appellate courts that the cases belong in federal court on grounds other than just federal removal.”

The companies have argued that the issues in the cases are federal ones, such as global emissions and that because they have done contracting work with the federal government, they are essentially federal officers.

Baltimore argued that its case doesn’t necessarily raise any federal law issues and that its claims stem from Maryland law. 

A federal appeals court in March ruled in favor of the city, keeping the case in state court for the time being. 

The Baltimore case is one of several filed in recent years seeking compensation from energy companies or lobbying groups for actions that contributed to climate change. 

The decision made by the judges could have implications on these other cases as well, possibly determining whether they can try to bring their cases to federal court at an earlier stage in the process. 

“Right now there’s a split in the Circuit Courts of Appeals about what you can appeal and when and this would resolve them,” said Carlson.

The story on the SCOTUS action is here. 

WAVE HELLO? Five major environmental groups will be joining together to pour resources into more than 30 House races and four Senate races to elect “environmental champions” to Congress. 

The Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund and the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund are seeking to help Democrats, including many in competitive races, in what’s expected to be a multimillion-dollar effort. 

They’re also looking to boost presidential candidate Joe Biden in several swing states through the project, called Green Wave 2020. 

More than 70 professional organizers will work with the campaigns in 15 states. 

“The organizers will work to mobilize environmental group members to volunteer on elections to help the environmental community build a Green Wave that is big and strong enough to turn the tide in Washington D.C.,” a press release announcing the initiative said.

The organizers will mobilize the groups’ members through remote phone and text banking and will promote early and mail-in voting when it’s emphasized by the campaigns. 

The groups behind Green Wave 2020 said that the election initiative will not only help elect people who support environmentally friendly policies, but it will also help the groups build out their organizing infrastructure for future elections. 

“The stakes for the environment, for our climate, and for communities suffering the worst consequences of toxic pollution across the nation have never been more stark than in 2020,” Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz said in a statement. 

“This unprecedented mobilization of our collective membership, including millions of members nationwide, will also help build lasting infrastructure in key states and districts that environmental champions running for office can rely upon for future election cycles,” Cruz added. 

Read more about the project here

THE WAIT IS OVER: A polar bear study that The Washington Post recently reported was delayed was posted online on Thursday. In the study, researchers found that polar bears are threatened by sea-ice loss connected to climate change but that this provides an opportunity for oil and gas extraction. It also estimated that polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea area have produced 123 dens. The southern Beaufort Sea, is part of an area the administration has moved toward opening up for oil and gas drilling. The Post reported that the study had been ready for at least three months but had been delayed by U.S. Geological Survey Director James Reilly. 


On Tuesday:

  • The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on royalty cuts granted by the administration


Regulators say new ‘forever chemicals’ contaminating the environment, Consumer Reports and The Guardian report

Ignoring Freshwater Ecosystems Could Doom the Amazon Rainforest, Earther reports

Oil scions rally wealthy peers to press banks on climate, Politico reports

Fires and Storms Push Demand for Emergency Shelter to a New High, The New York Times reports

Tags Joe Biden

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