By Karen Savage
Chevron attorney Ted Boutrous has sent letters to three appellate courts arguing that the recent dismissal of the landmark youth climate case, Juliana v. United States, supports the argument by fossil fuel companies that all climate liability suits belong in federal court and should be similarly dismissed.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month dismissed Juliana, but the case was significantly different from the climate liability cases Boutrous argues should be dismissed on the same grounds. In Juliana, the young plaintiffs sued the U.S. government for violating their rights by exacerbating climate change. The Ninth Circuit panel ruled they did not have standing because climate change cannot be addressed through the judicial branch of government and instead must be addressed by the executive and legislative branches.
The cases Boutrous refers to in the letters, which were sent Wednesday to the Ninth, Fourth and First Circuit courts, were filed in state courts against fossil fuel companies, alleging they violated state laws by selling a product they knew is the main driver of global warming. Boutrous argues the Juliana ruling supports the fossil fuel companies’ argument that claims made by municipalities “arise under federal law, and thus support federal jurisdiction, even if those claims ultimately fail for lack of remedy.”
Dozens of municipalities across the country have filed lawsuits against Chevron and other companies seeking compensation for impacts that have already happened and for infrastructure improvements needed to protect their residents from the increasing effects of climate change. The communities emphasize that these companies knew decades ago their products would cause these impacts.