Baltimore urges Supreme Court to reject Exxon, BP appeal in climate change case

Signage is seen at an Exxon gas station in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Oil companies want the Supreme Court to again review whether cases belong in federal or state courts
  • Baltimore says a review will only extend delays
  • Suits claim Big Oil must help pay for climate change damages

(Reuters) - Baltimore urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a petition filed by Big Oil asking it to review lower court orders sending its climate change lawsuit back to state court, arguing a review would only extend delays that have plagued the case for half a decade.

The lawsuit filed by the city against BP, Shell, Exxon and others is one of more than 20 suits filed by U.S. states and municipalities against oil companies claiming they for years marketed and sold petroleum products despite knowing their harmful contributions to climate change.

Baltimore said on Monday that the oil industry’s petition for a review of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals order sending its case to state court, where it was originally filed, should be rejected, noting that every appeals court to consider venue in these cases against the oil industry has agreed that federal courts are not the place for them.

“At bottom, there is no existing federal common law that could apply to Baltimore’s claims, and petitioners have not come close to showing that new federal common law should be crafted,” the city said.

There are currently five petitions filed by the oil companies at the high court challenging circuit court decisions that sent cases back to state courts.

The Biden administration was asked to weigh in on the issue in October.

If the high court takes up any or all of the cases, it would be a second chance for it to clarify where these types of cases belong. It considered a narrower version of the issue in May 2021 in Baltimore's case.

The oil companies have denied local governments' allegations and argued that despite the municipalities only raising state law claims, the cases clearly raise federal questions. BP, Shell and Exxon didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Federal court is widely viewed as more favorable for the companies where, industry defendants have argued, the claims would be preempted by federal law and the Clean Air Act. The 2nd Circuit agreed with that rationale in 2021 when it tossed a similar case filed by New York City in federal court.

The case is BP Plc v. Mayor and City of Baltimore, U.S. Supreme Court, case No. 19-1644.

For the oil companies: Kannon Shanmugam, Theodore Wells and Daniel Toal of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Theodore Boutrous and Thomas Hungar of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

For Baltimore: Victor Sher of Sher Edling

Read more:

Exxon, BP ask U.S. Supreme Court to review Baltimore climate-change suit

Biden admin. tapped by U.S. Supreme Court in climate jurisdiction battle

More U.S. climate-change lawsuits against Big Oil head back to state court

Oil companies defeat New York City appeal over global warming

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