19 States File Federal Lawsuit Against Five Other States Over Climate Change Litigation

19 States File Federal Lawsuit Against Five Other States Over Climate Change Litigation

A gas pump is inserted inside an Audi vehicle at a Mobil gas station in Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, Calif., on March 10, 2022. (Bing Guan/Reuters)

Chase Smith

Chase Smith

5/23/2024

Updated: 5/23/2024

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A total of 19 states have filed a federal lawsuit against five other states, challenging their attempts to impose liability on energy companies for climate change impacts through state tort law.
The plaintiffs argue in the May 22 filing that state-led lawsuits attempting to regulate national energy policy constitute overreach and infringe upon the constitutional principles of federalism and interstate commerce.
The action is being taken by the group of states led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall against California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
In a press release on Thursday, May 23, announcing the action, Mr. Marshall said that those five states are unconstitutionally attempting “to dictate the future of American energy policy.”
“The theory advanced by these states is truly radical: A small gas station in rural Alabama could owe money to the people of Minnesota simply for selling a gallon of gas,” Mr. Marshall said in the press release. “The customer might even be liable too. These states are welcome to enforce their preferred policies within their jurisdiction, but they do not have authority to dictate our national energy policy.”
Mr. Marshall added that if the United States Supreme Court lets those states continue, “California and its allies will imperil access to affordable energy for every American.”
“That would threaten our national security and harm millions of Americans already struggling to pay for gas and groceries,” the attorney general added. “To protect Alabama citizens and our constitutional order, we had no choice but to sue.”

The Suit

The Supreme Court will have to decide whether to hear the lawsuit, in which the states complain that “traditional energy sources like oil, natural gas, and coal are essential for American prosperity” and the United States’ system of federalism ensures that no one state has power over another.
Before this suit in April, Alabama and 19 other states filed an amicus brief in the high court asking them to review a suit filed by the City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii which they argue sought to impose billions of dollars in penalties on the energy industry.
The Honolulu government had claimed that the companies deceived consumers about emissions created by consumables such as gasoline, with the high court yet to rule on the request to hear that case.
The plaintiffs in the new suit contend that the defendant states are using their courts to impose what amounts to a de facto national carbon tax.
They argue this is being done through state law claims against energy companies for their contributions to global climate change, which they allege violates the constitutional framework of state sovereignty and the federal regulation of interstate commerce.
Among the arguments made, the plaintiffs argue that the actions of the defendant states violate the constitutional principle of horizontal separation of powers by encroaching on federal authority over interstate emissions.
They also claim that the regulation of interstate air pollution is a federal matter, as established in precedents like American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, which held that federal law governs disputes over interstate emissions.
The plaintiffs further argue that the defendant states’ actions constitute extraterritorial regulation, violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by attempting to control the promotion, sale, and use of traditional energy products beyond their borders.
They seek a declaratory judgment that the defendant states’ attempts to impose liability and obtain equitable relief from energy companies for emissions are unconstitutional and beyond their competence to prosecute.
The plaintiff states assert that the defendant states’ lawsuits represent an unprecedented and unconstitutional attempt to dictate national energy policy through state courts, which threatens the availability of affordable energy and disrupts the balance of state and federal powers.

Defendant States’ Actions

The defendant states have initiated lawsuits against major energy companies, seeking to hold them accountable for what they claim is their role in contributing to climate change.
These lawsuits typically include claims of public nuisance, failure to warn, and misleading advertising regarding the environmental impact of fossil fuels.
For instance, California’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil and other energy giants alleges that these companies misled the public about the risks of fossil fuels and seeks extensive monetary damages and injunctive relief to abate the alleged nuisance caused by their products.
The outcome of this federal suit could have significant implications for climate litigation and state versus federal authority.
If the plaintiff states succeed, it could curtail the ability of individual states to use their courts to address climate-related issues.
Conversely, a ruling in favor of the defendant states could embolden more state-led initiatives aimed at holding corporations accountable for environmental impacts, potentially leading to a patchwork of regulations and increased litigation.
The Epoch Times reached out to the California Attorney General’s Office for a response to the suit by the other states against California.
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Chase Smith

Chase Smith

Author

Chase is an award-winning journalist. He covers national news for The Epoch Times and is based out of Tennessee. For news tips, send Chase an email at chase.smith@epochtimes.us or connect with him on X.

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