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A Manhattan Federal Court judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by mayor Bill de Blasio seeking damages from major oil companies for contributing to climate change, including Superstorm Sandy, through the emission of greenhouse gases.
In January, city authorities filed the suit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, with the aim of winning $20 billion in compensation to be put toward a plan to protect the city of New York, its public services, and the local economy from the effects of global warming.
It was a tricky suit for any judge—and a political bomb. And in this case, Manhattan Federal Court Judge John Keenan rejected the claim, saying that international policy and political implications rendered it outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Judge Keenan also ruled that the Clean Air Act effectively already covered the city's claims.
"The immense and complicated problem of global warming requires a comprehensive solution that weighs the global benefits of fossil fuel use with the gravity of the impending harms," Keenan wrote in his decision.
The Manhattan court, he said, was not the place to try to tackle this issue, which requires a legislature round.
Few were surprised because we’ve heard this very argument before, during June hearings and from Chevron’s attorney in the case.
De Blasio had noted in a podcast featuring Senator Bernie Sanders earlier that the case should “bring the death knell to this industry that’s done so much harm”. In so doing, de Blasio lent credence to the defendants’ claims that this case is political.
Following the judge’s dismissal of the case, New York City officials have vowed to appeal.
Undeterred by the setback, other cities are planning to jump on board the bandwagon here, with some already suing, or planning to sue, Big Oil for coastal erosion and changing weather patterns that they claim are the result of manmade climate change.
Last month, a federal judge dismissed climate change cases against oil companies brought by Oakland and San Francisco based on similar grounds.
By Damir Kaletovic for Oilprice.com
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Damir Kaletovic is an award-winning investigative journalist, documentary filmmaker and expert on Southeastern Europe whose work appears on behalf of Oilprice.com and several other news…