In Shadow of Sen. Whitehouse’s Failed Public Nuisance Lawsuit, Rhode Island Tries Again with Climate Change

Rhode Island has become the first state to sue 21 fossil-fuel producers, alleging they should be held accountable for the impacts of climate change. Joined by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D), the state’s attorney general Peter F. Kilmartin (D) announced the lawsuit at a press conference at the Narragansett Sea Wall early Monday afternoon. Rhode Island joins a handful of municipalities across the country that have filed similar lawsuits in the last year.

This is not Rhode Island’s nor Senator Whitehouse’s first run bringing a public nuisance claim against businesses operating in the United States. In 1999, when he was the state’s attorney general, Whitehouse pursued a public nuisance claim against paint companies in the Ocean State. The case bounced around multiple court rooms, but on July 1, 2008 – almost ten years ago exactly – the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling and dismissed the case, asserting the state had stretched the law of public nuisance beyond reasonable bounds.

Whitehouse has also spearheaded the largely forgotten #ExxonKnew campaign from Congress. Rhode Island, meanwhile, regularly ranks at the bottom for the best states for business.

Continue reading at EID Climate to see why Sen. Whitehouse’s gambit is unlikely to succeed.

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