New York City climate suit dismissed by federal judge


New York City sued in January, claiming the five oil companies are responsible for more than 11% of all the atmospheric carbon and methane pollution since the Industrial Revolution, Kallanish Energy learns.

In dismissing the city's claims against Chevron Corp, BP Plc, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, U.S. District Judge John Keenan in Manhattan said climate change must be addressed through federal regulation and foreign policy.

But on Thursday, John F. Keenan, U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of NY, granted the defendants' request to dismiss the complaint.

The court also addressed climate change litigation more broadly.

"The serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate", he wrote in a 23-page decision.

"Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government", Keenan wrote in his decision. New York City said it should be reimbursed for costs to the city to deal with flooding, extreme weather conditions and other harm caused by climate change.

Meanwhile, in California, U.S. District Judge William Alsup put the kibosh to a suit by San Francisco and Oakland, on similar grounds.

Furthermore, the state's presentation of the harms of fossil fuel use must be reconciled with the benefits of fossil fuels as a source of power and heating.

"To litigate such an action for injuries from foreign greenhouse gas emissions in federal court would severely infringe upon the foreign-policy decisions that are squarely within the purview of the political branches of the USA government", he said. Judge Keenan said the framing didn't make a difference.

Kimmell warned that "the climate threats facing New York City are overwhelming, and taxpayers are already paying to protect the city from future Sandy-scale damages".

The court also ruled federal common law provides no remedy for climate change-related injuries because, under binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent, "the Clean Air Act displaces such federal common law claims".

Theodore Boutrous, who argued on behalf of the oil companies at a recent hearing before Keenan, said the judge "got it exactly right".

"The Mayor believes big polluters must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change and the damage it will cause New York City", Seth Stein, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said, in a statement.

The court concluded, "given the interstate nature of these claims, it would ... be illogical to allow the City to bring state law claims when courts have found that these matters are areas of federal concern that have been delegated to the Executive Branch as they require a uniform, national solution". The Supreme Court has acknowledged that private plaintiffs can bring federal tort claims, both Keenan and Alsup wrote, but its most recent decisions have urged federal courts to be extremely leery of overextending the reach of USA laws and intruding in matters that implicate foreign policy concerns.