Supreme Court delays landmark climate regulation case

 June 11, 2024

The Supreme Court has asked the Biden administration to weigh in on a landmark case involving Big Oil and climate regulation.

The court wants Biden's Solicitor General to share an opinion on litigation in Hawaii against top oil companies. The defendants had asked the Supreme Court to get involved after Hawaii's top court permitted the case to proceed.

The Honolulu case is considered a very big deal in the climate movement.

It's the tip of the spear in an effort by state and local governments to penalize oil companies to the tune of billions of dollars for their contributions to global warming.

Groundbreaking climate case

The Supreme Court's move means further delays before the case goes to trial.

The oil companies argue that regulating greenhouse gas emissions is a federal issue rather than a state one. They argue the litigation could be devastating to the energy industry and America's federalist system of government.

“This case presents the Court with its only foreseeable opportunity in the near future to decide a dispositive question that is arising in every climate-change case: whether federal law precludes state-law claims seeking redress for injuries allegedly caused by the effects of interstate and international greenhouse-gas emissions on the global climate,” the oil companies said in their petition to the court.

The state and local plaintiffs "are attempting to assert control over the Nation’s energy policies by holding energy companies liable for worldwide conduct in ways that starkly conflict with the policies and priorities of the federal government," the brief adds.

"That flouts this Court’s precedents and basic principles of federalism, and the Court should put a stop to it."

Liable for "disinformation"?

The city of Honolulu argues the lawsuit is not about regulating emissions but rather holding oil companies accountable for deception.

In a ruling last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court allowed the lawsuit to proceed, finding the defendants engaged in a "disinformation campaign" to deceive the public about their contributions to global climate change.

In a brief order Monday, the Supreme Court asked for the Biden administration to share its opinion on the controversy.

“The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in these cases expressing the views of the United States,” the court wrote.

The defendants include Exxon Mobil, BP, ConocoPhillips, BHP Group, Marathon Petroleum, Chevron and Shell.

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