Climate Change Liability Showdown Again Reaches U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has asked the Biden administration to comment on a petition filed last week by Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil, asking the Court to overturn a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision from April that handed a procedural victory to the City of Baltimore in its climate liability lawsuit against the oil companies.

The procedural issue at stake is whether nearly two dozen high-stakes climate cases brought by states and local governments against the oil and gas industry should be heard in federal or state courts. State courts are considered a more plaintiff-friendly venue.

The Justices last year sided with industry, ruling in BP v. Baltimore that appellate courts must consider a wider range of arguments in favor of federal jurisdiction.

The 4th Circuit subsequently affirmed that the Baltimore case does not belong in federal court.

A related U.S. Supreme Court petition was filed earlier this month by Suncor Energy and ExxonMobil in a climate liability lawsuit brought by local Colorado governments.  The Court also invited the Biden administration to weigh in on that petition.

The Trump administration expressed the view that the climate change claims are removable to federal court because they are inherently federal in nature.

While President Biden supported climate litigation during his election campaign, his administration until now has not revealed its opinion.

The justices still must decide whether to accept or reject the Baltimore and Boulder petitions after hearing from the Biden administration.

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