Global Warming Public Nuisance Actions Will Stay In Federal Court


On February 27, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected motions filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco to remand two global warming public nuisance lawsuits filed by the cities in state court against several large energy companies (BP P.L.C., Chevron Corporation, ConocoPhillips Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Royal Dutch Shell plc). The case is The People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C., et al.

The complaints filed by the City of Oakland and the City of San Francisco are based on the premise that, despite knowing of the risks associated with climate change and global warming, these companies continued to produce and sell their products to the public that uses fossil fuels in their day to day operations. The complaints seek an abatement fund to pay for seawalls and other infrastructure to address rising sea levels.

The defendant companies rank among the largest cumulative producers of fossil fuels. They removed these lawsuits to federal court, where it will stay for the time being.

According the District Court, these claims are necessarily governed by federal common law, which now encompasses the general subject of environmental law. Nevertheless, the District Court certified, for interlocutory appeal, the issue of whether these claims are removable to federal court on the grounds that they are subject to federal common law.

In addition, the District Court ordered the parties to engage in a two-part tutorial in the judge’s court room on the subject of global warming on March 21.