AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton didn’t hold back following a hearing to dismiss New York City’s climate change lawsuit, accusing “liberal politicians” of trying to “enact disastrous policies through the courts because they have been unable to do so through the ballot box.”
On June 13, the world’s leading energy companies requested a federal judge toss the city’s suit, which seeks to pin the blame for climate change, and the costly natural disasters that supposedly occur as a result, on big oil.
Earlier this year, New York City sued ExxonMobil, Chevron and others for damages caused by Hurricane Sandy and the cost to safeguard its coastlines from future events.
"Extreme climate change activists, working in tandem with New York City’s liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio, think they have finally found a way to force their radical climate change agenda on the entire nation while driving up energy costs for ordinary, hardworking Americans,” Paxton said in a statement.
“The City of New York, along with liberal mayors and trial lawyers across the country, want to extract billions of dollars from a handful of oil and natural gas companies based on the entirely unproven claim that those companies are responsible for climate change and global warming.”
Paxton’s not the only one who believes the courts aren’t the correct forums for enacting climate change policy.
On June 11, Investor’s Business Daily published an opinion piece authored by Richard Weekley, senior chairman for Texans for Lawsuit Reform, who says the “legal system has been weaponized for a full-scale attack on a critical player in America's economy.”
“Legislation — not lawsuits — is a more effective avenue to address an issue this complex. Not least of all because with little oversight of private lawyers and no strings attached to the dollars recovered in these climate change cases, there is no rational reason to believe a legal settlement would have any meaningful impact on our nation's environmental challenges,” the op-ed states.
“Our legal system is not the correct forum for crafting public policy, and our courts were never intended to bypass the legislative process in pursuit of anyone's personal agenda. Twelve citizens on a jury should never stand in for 535 elected members of Congress or our 50 state legislatures.
“Climate change is an intricate issue that requires serious discussion and public deliberation. But enterprising trial attorneys will do us all a tremendous disservice if they succeed in forcing the outcome of these complex considerations through litigation.”
In California, numerous cities and counties have filed suits attempting to hold big oil responsible for rising sea levels and potential flooding.
Weekley argues attorneys are attempting to “cash in on climate change.”
“They've partnered with mayors, environmental activists and states' attorneys general to wage a legally dubious crusade against our nation's oil and gas producers — all on contingency fee contracts for the lawyers, of course,” the opinion piece states.
“As advocates for eradicating abuse from the legal system and restoring civil litigation to its appropriate role, these lawsuits are alarming to us because they stretch the law far beyond its intentions, ignore critical facts and involve private lawyers in a space meant for democratically elected decision makers.”
How a court could possibly quantify the role oil and gas companies played in contributing to climate change is a point also made in Weekley’s op-ed.
“How can anyone say with reasonable certainty what impact a single producer allegedly had and will have on our environment? Using the same logic, shouldn't everyone be held responsible for their share of climate-wrecking energy consumption? Families and farmers, truckers, manufacturers, businesses of all sizes, airlines — all demand cheap energy to fuel their activities,” the op-ed states.
“And the lawsuits make no mention of massive energy consuming nations, like China, which emit vast amounts of pollution into the atmosphere. Even the cities and counties themselves that have brought the lawsuits emit pollution into the atmosphere every day through municipal services like garbage collection or the police and fire departments.
“Where exactly do they factor into all of this?
Paxton believes it’s “absurd” to place the blame for climate change on only a few energy companies, and says the “attempt to manipulate the courts” as an “end-run around” to the legislative process has already been tried before and rejected by the Supreme Court.
“In fact, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion that district courts have no jurisdiction to claim damages from global climate change,” Paxton said in the statement. “The Court ruled that this issue instead belongs in the hands of Congress and the EPA. The Southern District of New York should rule the same way and save millions in unnecessary litigation fees paid by taxpayers.
“We all depend on affordable, reliable energy and a handful of profitable energy companies should not be forced to defend themselves in costly, unfounded lawsuits.”