As Courts Dismiss Climate Lawsuits, King County Decides to Put Taxpayers at Risk

Last week, Ken Eikenberry, the former Attorney General of Washington State, wrote that “Exxon Mobil Corp. currently is the target of environmental activists, deep pocketed donors, trial lawyers and ambitious politicians who see the oil company as a major trophy.” One of the key tactics of that strategy are copy-cat climate lawsuits that cities, counties, and one even one state have brought against major oil and gas companies, which claim that energy producers are liable for climate change related damages.

One of lawsuits was filed by King County in Eikenberry’s home state of Washington. Eikenberry’s remarks come shortly after Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell filed motions to dismiss the King County lawsuit. The county is being represented by Hagens Berman, the same plaintiffs’ firm that has brought essentially the same discredited suit on behalf of San Francisco, Oakland, and New York City.

The companies note the total failure of these lawsuits in federal court thus far:

“The Complaint raises federal statutory, regulatory, and constitutional issues; aims to upset bedrock federal-state divisions of responsibility; and has profound implications for the global economy, international relations, and America’s national security. For these reasons and more, cases asserting nearly identical claims have universally been rejected by U.S. courts. In fact, in the last five weeks, both the Northern District of California and the Southern District of New York have dismissed the same claims, against the same five Defendants, brought by the same private lawyers representing Plaintiff here.” (emphasis added)

The companies also highlight the absurdity of King County’s complaint, which asserts that a global issue should bizarrely be treated as a local problem within the jurisdiction of a state court:

“This case is about global production and global emissions, not a local nuisance. Plaintiff asks this Court to disregard the recognized boundaries of tort law and hold these select Defendants liable for the actions of literally billions of third parties not just in King County, but around the world. These claims cannot be adjudicated without deciding whether the alleged harms are outweighed by the social utility of fossil fuels—not just in King County, but around the world.”

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