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State AGs' Amicus Brief in Oakland/San Francisco Climate Lawsuit

April 19, 2018
By Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, et al.

15 State Attorneys Generals argue the city's of Oakland and San Francisco climate lawsuits violate the constitution and open themselves up to liability.

Oakland and San Francisco officials are claiming oil companies have worked to delay emissions regulations by discrediting climate change research. The city governments claim the companies should be held liable for harms allegedly caused by climate change and the costs to cities responding to the changing climate.

Led by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill (R), attorneys general from 15 states, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming filed a friend of the court brief in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California asking the presiding judge, William Alsup, to dismiss a climate liability lawsuit against five oil companies brought by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco.

The AGs cite numerous reasons why Alsup should dismiss the cities’ lawsuit including the cities are treading upon power specifically delegated to the Congress of the United States in the Constitution and that if successful, the suits could open the cities and states around the country up to similar claims.

Per the brief:

“Imposing such financial consequences on business activity contravenes Congress’s exclusive power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce,” the brief says.

“Plaintiffs’ objections to fossil fuel use are based in public policy, not law, and are thus not appropriate for judicial resolution,” the brief says.

The AGs also say the cities’ claims could “jeopardize our national system of cooperative federalism” by allowing certain cities or states to set energy policies to the whole nation.

“[Cities are suing for] nothing more specific than promoting the use of fossil fuels,” the AGs write. “As utility owners, power plant operators, and generally significant users of fossil fuels (through facilities, vehicle fleets and highway construction, among other functions), States and their political subdivisions themselves may be future defendants in similar actions.”