Big Oil lawyer tells court lawsuit threatens national security

red herring. According to Wikipediathis phrase means: “Something that misleads or diverts attention from a relevant or important issue. It can be either a logical error or a literary device that leads readers or the public The City of Baltimore has filed a lawsuit against several major oil companies, claiming their actions violate Maryland consumer protection laws by waging disinformation campaigns to hide what they knew about the dangers from burning fossil fuels.The city is seeking damages, money that could be used to protect the community from the consequences of global warming.

The city filed its lawsuit in state court, but the defendants are trying to have it transferred to federal court. The city thinks local jurors will be more likely to look favorably on its claims. Where else would a case based on Maryland law be tried? The oil industry, meanwhile, thinks it will have better luck with a federal judge and federal law. Somewhere deep in its collective mind, the industry is banking on the likelihood that the United States Supreme Court, currently dominated by reactionaries, will protect it.

This week, Kannon Shanmugam, an attorney representing BP, Exxon, Shell and other energy companies, told a federal appeals court that lawsuits alleging fossil fuel companies lied about the climate crisis could put an end to offshore oil drilling, which would cause America to produce less oil, which would force the United States to depend on foreign countries for oil, which would pose a risk to the nation’s security. “The relief sought by Baltimore would discourage, if not make entirely impossible, any new production on the outer continental shelf,” the so-called attorney said earnestly.

Phew! It’s a big smelly fish to drag before a panel of judges. The logical conclusion of such an argument is that oil companies should be free to lie, cheat and steal as they please, because it protects America. So what if the seas rise, the skies pour down biblical amounts of rain, or people have to move because their neighborhoods are flooded? These are small concerns compared to America’s security. Interestingly enough, many of these defendants aren’t even US corporations. Is there a more delicious irony than that of foreign corporations claiming to care about the security of the United States?

Shanmugam told the court that the case should fall under federal jurisdiction because pollution is regulated by national laws and the climate crisis is a national and international issue. He also accused Baltimore and other municipalities of using the courts to try to change climate policy. “Global climate change is obviously the subject of international agreements as well as pervasive regulation by the federal government,” he said. “Too bad for your flooded neighborhoods. We have bigger fish to fry,” he seemed to suggest.

Vic Sher, an attorney representing the city of Baltimore, said The Guardian that the city’s case was not about pollution regulations, but about the lies spouted by the fossil fuel industry. “The focus of the complaint, unfortunately, cannot address global climate change. It focuses very narrowly on a past pattern of conduct based on deception and failure to warn, and it seeks compensatory damages. for injuries that arise from that past conduct,” he said.

The big oil and the big lie

Karen Sokol, a law professor at Loyola University who specializes in climate litigation, says The Guardian The complaint is one of many “scare tactics” being deployed by the oil industry as it fights to move the Baltimore case and other similar cases out of state courts where consumer and business protections other laws favor plaintiffs. “It’s a scaremongering tactic, telling the courts to back off, we’re a very powerful industry and we’re critical to energy security right now. If you go into this, you’re going to ruin everything. »

She said the federal appeals court judges appeared “very skeptical” of the oil industry’s assertion that the Baltimore case belongs in federal court. She added that the industry’s legal argument did not address the substance of the city’s claim that big oil companies ran a misinformation campaign and lied about the damage caused by their role in creating the climate crisis, and instead tried to focus on who regulates pollution.

If the appeals court ruling goes against the oil industry, Sokol expects the oil companies to return to the U.S. Supreme Court as part of their strategy to delay the longest long possible the Baltimore case and others like it. “He will continue to fight this thing at the litigation stage until all hell freezes over before allowing him access to discovery, let alone a trial, because he knows the civil discovery system of State courts is so powerful that it would be compelled to disgorge documents that would illuminate the extent of this misinformation campaign even beyond what we already know.

This, Clean Technica friends, is really the point of this fight. The industry is petrified of what Baltimore and other plaintiffs will find in its records if forced to disclose what and when they knew it. That’s why Exxon is trying to drag California plaintiffs to Texas courts, because it knows those Lone Star State judges will build an impenetrable wall around the company to keep it from revealing the truth.

The Guardian says the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing will influence similar cases within the same federal judicial district, including a lawsuit filed by Charleston, South Carolina. It may also impact nearly a dozen other lawsuits filed by states and municipalities in other jurisdictions. A federal appeals court in Hawaii is scheduled to hear a similar case next month.

An experienced lawyer will tell you that delay always benefits one of the litigants. This delay may help Big Oil, but it certainly won’t benefit the citizens of Baltimore, Maryland, America, or the world. With each passing day, the climate crisis is becoming more of a threat to humanity. The fossil fuel industry has long benefited from a distorted economic system that allows it to avoid paying for the damage caused by its waste.

If the price of gasoline included all the social costs of the damage caused when it was burned, it would cost over $10.00 a gallon. Think what that would mean for the electric vehicle revolution!

Oil companies have avoided paying the full cost of damage caused by their products because governments decided long ago that the benefits of building economies based on fossil fuels outweighed the damages. This thought might have been acceptable in the 1940s and 1950s before anyone really understood the damage caused by the extraction, transportation and burning of fossil fuels, but scientists started talking about this damage to these companies a long time ago. is 60 years old. If companies had started tackling the problem then, much of the global warming plaguing the world today could have been avoided.

By lying about what they know and hiding it, these greedy corporations have created a situation that could lead to the extinction of our species, and that’s fine with them as long as it puts money in their pockets. In what world should such coldly calculated harm be free of consequences? This is the question the courts will – and should – be asked to answer.


Do you appreciate the originality of CleanTechnica? Consider becoming a member, supporter, technician or ambassador of CleanTechnica – or a patron on Patreon.




Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise or suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Comments are closed.