DOJ Says Local and State Lawsuits Against Oil and Gas Companies Should Remain in State Court

Statement by Dr. Delta Merner, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Mar 16, 2023

The U.S. Department of Justice today shared its opinion with the U.S. Supreme Court that the case Colorado communities have brought against ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy should remain in state court, a position supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The suit, filed by the City of Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County, makes the case that the companies deceived the public about their products’ role in climate change and seeks to make the companies pay their fair share for the damage they caused.

Below is a statement by Dr. Delta Merner, the lead scientist at the Science Hub for Climate Litigation at UCS.

“I’m pleased that the Justice Department has sided with communities seeking access to justice in state courts.

“This case has been languishing for nearly half a decade because of the companies’ stalling tactics, such as questioning the state court system’s jurisdiction.

“To date, every court considering this question has sided with communities and rejected Big Oil’s arguments. They agree that local governments can pursue their claims in state court where they were filed, and where the concerns of impacted communities are front and center.

“These companies should be held accountable for their role in the climate crisis, which includes the devastating impacts from more frequent and destructive wildfires that Colorado has endured. Since this case was filed, Colorado has suffered from four of the five biggest fires in its history. As time progresses climate change worsens and the impacts that communities are forced to deal with continue to grow.

“There are now more than 40 states, cities and counties across the U.S. and its territories that have taken major oil and gas corporations to court. My sense is that number will continue to grow as local governments are increasingly overwhelmed by the harm to which these companies have contributed by spreading disinformation and delaying climate action.”

For more information, see Dr. Merner’s op-ed “Jurisdiction delays lawsuits against Big Oil: the Biden administration can help.”