Oil companies are asking the Supreme Court to review the ruling sending Baltimore’s climate liability suit back to state court.
Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and more than a dozen other companies filed a brief Wednesday, arguing that the appellate court erred by not reviewing all of their reasons for wanting Baltimore’s climate liability suit against them to be heard in federal court.
The fossil fuel companies have tried to keep Baltimore’s case, as well as all the similar cases filed in state courts across the country, in federal court, where previous climate-related cases have been decided largely in the industry’s favor. Baltimore, along with other municipalities, wants the case to be heard in state court, where it was filed in 2018 alleging violations of state law. So far, the communities have been largely successful in steering the cases to state court, including a decision last week in Colorado.
The companies say that because they sold or extracted fossil fuels under government contract, they operated as federal officers. They cite the Federal Officer Removal Statute, which gives federal courts jurisdiction over civil actions directed at the United States or any federal official.
The U.S. District Court rejected that contention, along with the companies’ other arguments. The decision was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, however the appellate court reviewed only the issue of federal officer removal. It declined to consider the energy companies’ other arguments, which it said it does not have the power to review.
The companies agree that those arguments are not reviewable if presented alone, but contend that because they were presented along with the federal officer removal argument—which is eligible for appellate review—they too should have been reviewed.
The companies maintain that the appellate courts are divided on the issue, thus the matter warrants Supreme Court review. So far, however, the circuit courts have been fairly consistent in ruling that these cases should be heard in state court, with only the Ninth Circuit leaving the matter a bit up in the air by sending the appeal of San Francisco and Oakland’s cases back to a district court judge to reconsider his dismissal of them. But even the Ninth Circuit rejected the companies’ federal officer argument.
Baltimore has argued that the companies are merely looking for a “hook to allow appeal of some different subject.”