Baseless Legal Attacks Could Worsen US Energy Woes
Energy producers face legal attacks from multiple angles, according to a new report. The report, released today by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF), revealed that state attorneys general and […]
Energy producers face legal attacks from multiple angles, according to a new report.
The report, released today by the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF), revealed that state attorneys general and local municipalities have coordinated with energy activists to embark on a litigation campaign against oil companies, hiring plaintiffs’ attorneys to bring various state tort claims.
“It’s more important than ever to protect American energy sources from meritless lawsuits,” Tiger Joyce, American Tort Reform Association President said.
In more than 20 lawsuits against energy companies, complaints range from claims that the companies created a public nuisance to consumer protection and products liability complaints.
The novel use of public nuisance claims has come under fire by various parties, including U.S. District Judge William Alsup who dismissed the state public nuisance claims from San Francisco and Oakland. He explained that oil, gas and other energy products are not public nuisances and that they’ve given the world electrification while helping raise global health and living standards. He poignantly asked, “Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?”
To date, no court has sided with the plaintiffs on the merits of these claims, and much of the litigation is still focused on whether the state-based tort claims alleged in the plaintiffs’ complaints belong in state or federal courts.
“Companies that create highly regulated, legal products that benefit the general public should not face legal battles claiming those same products create a public nuisance,” Joyce said. “Climate change is a global concern deserving of a global solution from policymakers – regulation through litigation is not the answer.”
The ATRF report also highlights the use of privately funded special assistant attorneys general (SAAGs) who are embedded in the offices of state attorneys general for the sole purpose of litigating climate change lawsuits. The SAAGs’ salaries and benefits are covered by grants to the New York University School of Law State Energy and Environmental Impact Center that in turn are funded by a $5.6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
To date, we are aware of ten attorneys general who have applied for and received Bloomberg-funded SAAGs to date, including the AGs of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.
This practice has drawn criticism from numerous parties, including former Washington Attorney General Ken Eikenberry who said, “state AG’s offices are at risk of becoming conduits for advancing a privately funded political agenda.”
“With energy prices soaring to record highs and American energy sources becoming more critical than ever, now is the time to stop these baseless multi-billion-dollar lawsuits,” Joyce said.
The full report, “Attorneys General for Hire: A Disturbing Usurpation of Traditional State Police Powers by Private Political Activists” is available at ATRA.org.
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