By Karen Savage
First Circuit Court of Appeals judges were openly skeptical of oil company arguments that Rhode Island’s climate liability suit against them belongs in federal court.
In a hearing on Friday, Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips tried to convince a three-judge panel of the court to reverse a lower court’s decision to send Rhode Island’s lawsuit back to state court, using two arguments already rejected by several other appeals courts across the country.
Chevron attorney Ted Boutrous, speaking for the defendants, tried to convince them the Supreme Court has previously ruled that climate change-related cases are governed by federal law, referring to A.E.P v Connecticut, and that because the companies operated as federal officers, the case belongs in federal court.
It was not an easy sell. Judge Juan R. Torruella quickly pointed out that Rhode Island’s suit is centered on the companies’ alleged deception of the public about climate change and the driving role of burning fossil fuels.
“This is a lawsuit for alleged misinformation, how does that fit into your two arguments?” Torruella asked.
“Your honor, that’s one small piece of the case,” Boutrous began.
“Excuse me, a small piece of the case, did you say?” Torruella questioned.
Boutrous argued that the extraction and production of oil and gas is a key feature in each of Rhode Island’s claims and central to the case.
“Without the oil and gas production, there’s no claim because the emissions from that caused global warming and caused Rhode Island’s injuries,” Boutrous said.
He was corrected by Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson.
“Rhode Island’s allegations focus on the misrepresentations and the cover up of that and how that specifically has caused harm to the citizens of Rhode Island,” Thompson said.[Read more…]