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Big Oil Beats NYC Appeal On Climate Change Lawsuit

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled in favor of five of the world’s biggest oil companies in an appeal over a climate lawsuit that New York City was seeking re-opened.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that New York City can’t hold the five firms—Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell—responsible for damages caused by global warming under New York tort law.

The city sued the five companies in 2018, and then a federal district judge also dismissed NYC’s lawsuit arguing that problems pertaining to climate change should be tackled by Congress and the executive branch.  

In today’s ruling, in which NYC’s appeal was dismissed again, the court judges said “We affirm for substantially the same reasons as those articulated in the district court’s opinion.”

“Global warming presents a uniquely international problem of national concern. It is therefore not well-suited to the application of state law,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Sullivan wrote in Thursday’s ruling.

“The City of New York has sidestepped those procedures and instead instituted a state-law tort suit against five oil companies to recover damages caused by those companies’ admittedly legal commercial conduct in producing and selling fossil fuels around the world. In so doing, the City effectively seeks to replace these carefully crafted frameworks – which are the product of the political process – with a patchwork of claims under state nuisance law,” Judge Sullivan noted.

The appeals court dismissing the case of New York City is a setback for communities and other cities looking to hold the biggest oil corporations accountable for damages related to climate change. The court today said in no uncertain terms that states and cities do not have jurisdiction to sue oil companies for their contribution to global warming because emissions are under federal regulation.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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