By Karen Savage
A climate liability lawsuit filed by the city and county of Honolulu will proceed, a federal judge ruled Friday, overturning his own order to pause the case.
The case was filed in state court by the city and county of Honolulu against Aloha Petroleum, BHP Group, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Marathon Oil, and Shell in March, but was moved to federal court the following month.
It has been on hold since May, when the companies convinced U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson to pause the proceedings. The companies argued that a delay would allow the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether to weigh in on whether dozens of these suits filed across the country should be heard in state courts, where almost all were filed, or federal courts, where the fossil fuel companies think they have a better chance of shaking them.
The Supreme Court has not indicated whether it will consider this question and Watson said he now believes it is unlikely to, so he decided against continuing the stay.
“There is not a strong likelihood of acceptance of certiorari or reversal; defendants in this case will not be ‘irreparably injured absent a stay’; a further stay will, however, ‘substantially injure’ plaintiff by unnecessarily prolonging these proceedings for an indeterminate amount of time,” Watson wrote in an order issued Friday, adding that a prompt resolution to litigation is in the public’s best interest.
In the suit, the city and county of Honolulu accuse the companies of “concealing the dangers of, promoting false and misleading information about, and engaging in massive campaigns to promote increasing use of their fossil fuel products.”
The city and county say they—and their taxpayers—will be forced to pay to protect their residents and infrastructure from future climate impacts. They also allege that the impacts of climate change will cause the loss of tourism and reduce tax revenue and are seeking compensatory damages, abatement of the nuisance, punitive damages, disgorgement of profits and other costs.
The city and county of Honolulu have until Sept. 11 to file a motion to remand the case back to state court. The companies’ opposition brief is due Oct. 9 and a hearing will likely be scheduled after briefing is complete.