The topic of the Louisiana oil and gas industry’s role in climate change sparks a lot of arguments, and some of these arguments have taken the form of lawsuits. In recent years, a number of state and local governments have filed climate change-related lawsuits against major oil companies, but this litigation has been stalled by questions of jurisdiction: Should these lawsuits be heard in state courts or federal courts?
A recent decision suggests that such cases can be heard in state courts.
Minnesota’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against several major oil companies, arguing that they fraudulently covered up their role in climate change, and should be held liable for climate change-related damages to the state. The lawsuit is based on state laws against deceptive trade practices, false advertising and consumer fraud. The defendants argued that the case should be heard under federal law, and removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the 8th Circuit.
However, a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit held that the case should be sent back to state court.
In fact, the Minnesota case is just one of many such cases, and the fight over jurisdiction has led to similar results in more than 20 of them.
However, energy companies continue to argue that federal courts are the correct venues for the questions raised in these issues. For instance, one energy industry lawyer noted that the climate change lawsuits involve allegations of a global problem of greenhouse gas emissions. Because the problem is global, the lawyer argues, the federal government must have jurisdiction over the legal questions.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering whether it should hear arguments in a similar case filed by Boulder, Colorado.
Oil and gas litigation
Most litigation in the oil and gas industry doesn’t involve heavy questions of federal versus state law, let alone questions of global importance. However, this complex industry often raises extraordinarily complex legal issues, along with high-stakes financial concerns. These disputes require the help of experienced professionals.