ALF Urges Supreme Court To Decide Whether Climate-Change Damages Suits Belong In Federal, Not State, Courts

The Atlantic Legal Foundation, joined by the DRI Center for Law and Public Policy, has filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to decide whether damages suits filed by state or local governments against fossil fuel energy companies for allegedly causing global climate change can be "removed" (i.e., transferred) from state to federal court. Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. v. Board of County Commissioners of Boulder County, No. 21-1550, is one of several recent federal court of appeals cases addressing this important issue.

Masquerading as state-law causes of action for nuisance and trespass, the claims in these suits seek exorbitant damages from numerous energy companies for the cost of mitigating and remediating the alleged local effects of greenhouse gas-induced global warming. The ALF & DRI amicus brief explains, however, that because climate change is a borderless, global phenomenon, liability for the alleged "global tort" of altering the earth's climate cannot be divided into tens of thousands of local bits and pieces of liability subject to 50 States’ differing tort law standards. Instead, the plaintiffs' claims necessarily implicate uniquely federal interests. They arise under federal law, and therefore, can and should be adjudicated by federal courts.

"These suits have national and international dimensions, and must be adjudicated by federal courts. The energy companies' alleged liability for causing global climate change cannot be carved up into thousands of fragments, each limited to a state's, county's, or city's borders." -- Lawrence Ebner, ALF Executive Vice President & General Counsel

The amicus brief also explains that there are countless natural and man-made sources of greenhouse gas emissions around the world. For this reason, alleged liability for the impacts of climate change in a specific locale cannot be limited to any particular industry, member of an industry, or other source of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, insofar as any industry or company can be held liable for causing global climate change, then virtually every greenhouse gas emitter in the world would have to be held liable.