DAVID BLACKMON: Supreme Court Has A Chance To Torch One Of The Left’s Favorite Legal Tactics

From fuel emissions standards to gas-powered vehicle bans to far-reaching climate disclosure rules, states like California are constantly testing how far state laws can go in shaping national climate policy. But for nearly a decade, activists and leftwing lawmakers have simultaneously pursued a backdoor strategy that seeks to use state courtrooms, not state or national legislatures, to sue oil and natural gas companies into ceasing production and accomplishing their goal of shutting down American energy.

Less flashy EV mandates and offshore wind subsidies, the barrage of suits filed against energy companies has flown under the public’s radar. That might be about to change: If a single one of these cases is successful, Americans across the country could soon be in for a rude awakening in the form of skyrocketing gasoline and home energy prices.

While not a single case has succeeded to date–and the only case to go to trial failed outright–billionaire-funded climate activist groups continue to solicit new plaintiffs. To halt the proliferation and minimize potential damage to consumers, the Supreme Court has an opportunity in this term to reject the dangerous theory that individual oil and natural-gas companies can be held liable for producing the products that fuel the modern world.

A group of Republican state attorneys general is taking action and giving the U.S. Supreme Court yet another opportunity to put an end to this madness. In Alabama v. California, nineteen Republican attorneys general filed a case with the Supreme Court against five Democrat-led states arguing that this partisan, activist-backed lawfare campaign is an unconstitutional attempt to use state tort law to regulate lawful, out-of-state conduct and impose a national climate policy via liability.

Alabama v. California also puts pressure on the Supreme Court to consider another petition–Sunoco LP v. City and County of Honolulu–that requests that the justices evaluate climate lawsuits on their merits. As I previously pointed out, the Honolulu petition argues that individual states should not be permitted to use state tort laws to sue for alleged damages that arise from interstate emissions, a matter inherently restricted to federal law; as a result, Honolulu’s case should have been dismissed.

That was the decision that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reached in 2021 when it dismissed New York City’s climate lawsuit against oil and natural gas companies. “Global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. As a result, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law,” Judge Richard Sullivan wrote at the time.

It is long past time for the Supreme Court to intercede to end these billionaire-funded climate lawsuits. Letting these cases proceed is likely to hinder both energy affordability and climate progress. The time and money spent by companies fighting these suits and the outlandish damages requested by the plaintiffs (that also stuff the coffers of wealthy trial lawyers) are resources companies could otherwise direct towards solutions that cut emissions in line with national and international climate goals.

We live in the economy of today, not the economy of aspirational net-zero goals. Energy companies need immediate certainty that continuing to develop traditional oil and natural-gas projects will not be considered a liability-inducing event in the United States.

As the Republican attorneys general pointed out in their lawsuit, many states rely on revenue from energy production to fund schools, parks and other essential social services. And that’s just the cherry on top. Hydrocarbons heat our homes, power our vehicles, ensure a reliable electric grid, and enable all forms of manufacturing and industry.

Geopolitical issues have only increased the importance of America’s role in global energy markets. While Russia’s invasion into Ukraine continues to hamper European energy security and conflict in the Middle East threatens supply chains, America must prioritize an energy policy that serves both its allies and its taxpayers rather than cowering to activists.

The Supreme Court must put a stop to this climate lawfare. A failure to do so will only increase the uncertainty for energy companies around planning future projects, causing billions in capital to flee overseas. In both situations, its American consumers and business who will be paying the price.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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