Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill opposes the NYC climate suit with 14 other Republlican AGsIndiana's Curtis Hill and 14 other Republican state attorneys general filed their opposition to the NYC climate suit. Photo credit: Wikimedia

By Karen Savage

Fifteen Republican state attorneys general have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of a motion to dismiss by five major oil companies who are being sued by New York City for climate change-related damages.

Led by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, the amicus brief was filed last week and signed by AGs from Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The same group filed a nearly identical brief in April, urging a U.S. district court judge in California to dismiss climate liability suits by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland.

They filed ahead of next week’s hearing on the oil companies’ motion to dismiss. Both sides will make oral arguments to U.S. District Judge John Keenan on June 13.

New York filed suit against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell in January, asking for billions in damages for infrastructure improvements needed to protect the city’s nearly 9 million residents from rising seas and extreme weather caused by climate change.

The 15 Republican AGs contend that climate change and its effects are “political questions not suited for resolution by any court.” They say the city’s claims fall under what’s known as the political question doctrine, which says courts should not hear cases that can be resolved administratively or through legislation.

Alleging that New York is seeking to “inject its political and policy opinions into the national regulatory scheme best handled through use of the Clean Air Act,” the AGs say the federal courts should not set nationwide energy and environmental policy. They maintain that forcing the defendants to protect a single major city would impede the ability of the five oil giants to provide energy to the rest of the country.

New York City officials declined to comment on the brief.

Lindsey de la Torre, executive director of the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project (MAP), said the suits are misguided and praised the AG’s for filing the brief. MAP was formed by the National Association of Manufacturers to oppose the climate suits and state investigations.

“With continued support from the attorneys general, manufacturers can focus their efforts on solutions rather than fighting litigation that legal precedent has demonstrated will ultimately fail,” de la Torre said.

In the both the California and the New York briefs, the AGs list several state and federal policies in which the government is charged with promoting “the very energy production and marketing targeted in this case.”

“Such promotion not only demonstrates the inherently political nature of this issue, but also suggests that States and the federal government themselves could be subject to liability if Plaintiff’s claims are permitted to proceed,” the AGs wrote in the brief.

One such attempt to hold the federal government liable—Juliana v. United States—is set to go to trial on Oct. 28 in Eugene, Ore. In that case, 21 young plaintiffs are seeking to hold the federal government accountable for its role in supporting an energy system reliant on fossil fuels and are asking the court to order the U.S. government to create a science-based plan to stabilize and protect the climate for future generations.

Young plaintiffs across the country have filed similar suits on the state level.

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