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Home / News / Environment / Supreme Court seeks DOJ input on California climate change lawsuits

Supreme Court seeks DOJ input on California climate change lawsuits

by HeyWire AI
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On Monday, the Supreme Court instructed the Justice Department to provide its perspective on whether the climate change lawsuits filed by California and nearly two dozen other states and cities should be halted. The key question is whether greenhouse gas emissions fall under federal jurisdiction exclusively, or if state governments have the authority to address them as well.

The announcement came in the form of a brief order requesting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to submit a brief expressing the views of the United States concerning two ongoing appeals, Sunoco vs. Honolulu and Shell vs. Honolulu. This move suggests it will be several months before the Supreme Court decides whether to take up the contentious issue between oil and gas producers and the suing states.

Oil and gas industries had previously urged the Supreme Court to intervene, hoping for a ruling that federal law overrides state-based claims seeking damages for climate change impacts. The energy companies argue that the burning of fossil fuels, which has been identified as a major contributor to global warming, should be regulated solely by federal law.

Currently, lawyers representing states and municipalities from Massachusetts to Hawaii can continue with their claims. They allege that the energy sector has been aware for decades of the dangers posed by fossil fuels and has actively sought to downplay these risks.

Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that the state had filed a lawsuit against the five largest oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, accusing them of running a “decades-long campaign of deception” that has led to climate-related damages in California.

The Supreme Court’s brief also highlighted that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. recused himself from the court’s consideration of these appeals, presumably due to stock holdings in several companies involved in the litigation. According to Newsweek, “Alito, according to sources, owns stock in ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66—both mentioned in myriad suits.” However, should the court take up the case in the future, Justice Alito might opt to sell the affected stocks and participate in the decision.

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