Two pump jacks mining crude oil in Midland, Texas.

Local Suits Against Oil Companies

City of Imperial Beach, Marin and San Mateo Counties

  • July 2017

    In July 2017, the City of Impe­r­i­al Beach, Cal­i­for­nia and the Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties of Marin and San Mateo filed sep­a­rate suits in state court against fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies. The com­plaints alleged that the com­pa­nies’ pro­duc­tion, pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing of fos­sil fuel prod­ucts while con­ceal­ing the known cli­mate change impacts of their prod­ucts caused the gov­ern­ments’ injuries. The injuries include more fre­quent and more severe flood­ing and sea lev­el rise that threat­ens the gov­ern­ments’ pub­lic infra­struc­ture. The local gov­ern­ments advance eight claims in seek­ing relief that includes com­pen­sato­ry dam­ages, abate­ment of the alleged nui­sance and dis­gorge­ment of profits.

  • March 2018

    In March 2018, the fed­er­al dis­trict court in the north­ern dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia, after rul­ing that the com­plaints were relat­ed and should be heard togeth­er, held that the local gov­ern­ments’ law­suits belong in state court as the claims brought by the local gov­ern­ments are state law claims. That same month the defen­dant fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies noti­fied the fed­er­al dis­trict court that the com­pa­nies were appeal­ing the low­er court deci­sion to the Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals.

  • Jan­u­ary 2019

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra led a coali­tion of eight attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief with the Ninth Cir­cuit. The attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the dis­trict court deci­sion be upheld and that the local gov­ern­ments be allowed to pur­sue their claims against the oil com­pa­nies in state court.

  • June 2019

    In June 2019, the local gov­ern­ments wrote to the Ninth Cir­cuit to noti­fy the court of the rul­ing in the Bal­ti­more cli­mate litigation. 

  • July 2019

    The next month, July 2019, the Ninth Cir­cuit ordered that the appeal in the local gov­ern­ments’ lit­i­ga­tion and the appeal of the City of Oak­land and City and Coun­ty of San Fran­cis­co (below) would be heard by the same three-judge panel. 

  • May 2020

    In May 2020, the Ninth Cir­cuit issued a deci­sion sid­ing with the attor­neys gen­er­al in affirm­ing the March 2018 low­er court deci­sion that there was no basis for fed­er­al juris­dic­tion and the local gov­ern­ments’ com­plaint should be heard in state court.

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the Ninth Cir­cuit denied the oil com­pa­nies’ peti­tion for rehear­ing en banc.

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies filed a motion with the Ninth Cir­cuit to stay the issuance of a man­date that the lit­i­ga­tion be returned to state court in order to allow the oil com­pa­nies to peti­tion for a writ of cer­tio­rari with the Supreme Court to chal­lenge the Ninth Circuit’s May 2020 deci­sion. A few weeks lat­er the Ninth Cir­cuit grant­ed the stay request for 90 days to per­mit the oil com­pa­nies to file a peti­tion for a writ of certiorari.

City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco

  • Sep­tem­ber 2017

    In Sep­tem­ber 2017, the City of Oak­land and City and Coun­ty of San Fran­cis­co filed sep­a­rate law­suits against large fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies in state court. The com­plaints stat­ed that the com­pa­nies have pro­duced and pro­mot­ed the use of fos­sil fuels despite the knowl­edge that fos­sil fuels con­tributed to cli­mate change-caused sea lev­el rise, a pub­lic nui­sance that will con­tin­ue to injure pub­lic prop­er­ty and land in Oak­land and San Fran­cis­co. The cities are seek­ing relief that would include the estab­lish­ment of an abate­ment fund to finance infra­struc­ture needs in Oak­land and San Fran­cis­co to address sea lev­el rise and oth­er cli­mate change impacts.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2018

    In Feb­ru­ary 2018, after the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies had removed the lit­i­ga­tion to fed­er­al court, the fed­er­al dis­trict court in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia denied the cities’ motion to remand the lit­i­ga­tion back to state court. The court ruled that pub­lic nui­sance claims should be gov­erned by fed­er­al com­mon law. The fol­low­ing month, the com­pa­nies filed a motion to dis­miss the claims brought by Oak­land and San Fran­cis­co, argu­ing that the pub­lic nui­sance claims relat­ed to domes­tic green­house gas emis­sions are dis­placed under the fed­er­al Clean Air Act.

  • May 2018

    In May 2018, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra along with the attor­neys gen­er­al of New Jer­sey and Wash­ing­ton filed an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the cities’ oppo­si­tion to the motion to dis­miss by the defen­dant com­pa­nies. The ami­cus brief not­ed that the Clean Air Act could not dis­place the plain­tiffs’ fed­er­al com­mon law claims because the Clean Air Act reg­u­lates spe­cif­ic emis­sions from par­tic­u­lar sources, not the pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of fos­sil fuels or the defen­dants’ con­duct out­side of the Unit­ed States. The fol­low­ing month, the judge in the north­ern dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia grant­ed the motion to dis­miss from the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies, find­ing that the cities’ claims were dis­placed under the Clean Air Act.

  • August 2018

    In August 2018, Oak­land and San Fran­cis­co appealed the fed­er­al dis­trict court’s order to the Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. 

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, the cities filed their open­ing brief in the appeal, request­ing that the lit­i­ga­tion be remand­ed back to the state courts as the dis­trict court lacked prop­er juris­dic­tion to hear the complaints.

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 10 oth­er attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the cities’ efforts to hold the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies account­able for the pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of cli­mate change-caus­ing fos­sil fuel emis­sions. The ami­cus brief not­ed that the cities’ com­plaints should have been remand­ed back to state court as the Clean Air Act rec­og­nizes states’ role in reduc­ing air pol­lu­tion and thus fed­er­al courts should not have exclu­sive juris­dic­tion over cli­mate change cases.

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies filed their open­ing briefs in the appel­late lit­i­ga­tion in the Ninth Cir­cuit, argu­ing that the dis­trict court had juris­dic­tion to con­sid­er the cities’ complaints. 

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, the cities’ filed their reply brief in the Ninth Cir­cuit lit­i­ga­tion, not­ing the favor­able deci­sion in the City of Bal­ti­more lit­i­ga­tion that held that sim­i­lar claims against oil com­pa­nies for the impact of cli­mate change prop­er­ly belong in state court. Then the Ninth Cir­cuit ordered that the cities’ appeal and the appeal by the City of Impe­r­i­al Beach and Marin and San Mateo coun­ties (above) be heard by the same three-judge panel.

  • May 2020

    On the same day that the Ninth Cir­cuit issued its deci­sion in the Impe­r­i­al Beach and Marin and San Mateo coun­ties lit­i­ga­tion (above) in May 2020, the Ninth Cir­cuit issued a deci­sion vacat­ing the low­er court’s June 2018 deci­sion to dis­miss the cities’ law­suit. The Ninth Cir­cuit held that the cities’ state law-based claims were not pre­empt­ed under fed­er­al law, includ­ing the Clean Air Act. The Ninth Cir­cuit remand­ed the cities’ com­plaint to the north­ern dis­trict of Cal­i­for­nia court for fur­ther proceedings. 

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the Ninth Cir­cuit denied the oil com­pa­nies’ request for a pan­el rehear­ing or rehear­ing en banc.

New York City

  • Jan­u­ary 2018

    In Jan­u­ary 2018, New York City filed a law­suit against the major fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies in fed­er­al dis­trict court in New York. The law­suit alleged that the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies pro­duced and pro­mot­ed the use of fos­sil fuels, even as the com­pa­nies knew that burn­ing fos­sil fuels would cause cli­mate harms. The City brought three claims against the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies – pub­lic and pri­vate nui­sance caus­es of action and tres­pass – for cli­mate-caused injuries to City-owned prop­er­ty, funds the City has spent in respond­ing to ongo­ing dam­age, and future dam­age that will be inflict­ed on City infrastructure.

  • May 2018

    In May 2018, the defen­dants filed a motion to dis­miss the City’s com­plaint. The fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies assert­ed that the City’s claims were dis­placed and pre­empt­ed under fed­er­al com­mon law and the Clean Air Act, respec­tive­ly. In July 2018, the fed­er­al dis­trict court in New York dis­missed the City’s claims, find­ing that fed­er­al com­mon law dis­places the City’s state law-based claims and that the fed­er­al Clean Air Act pre­empts the City’s fed­er­al com­mon law claims.

    With­in a week of the dis­missal, New York City noti­fied the fed­er­al dis­trict court that it was appeal­ing the dis­trict court order to the Sec­ond Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. The City’s ini­tial brief in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit lit­i­ga­tion assert­ed that the dis­trict court had erred in find­ing that fed­er­al com­mon law dis­places the City’s state-law based claims and hold­ing the Clean Air Act pre­empts the fed­er­al com­mon law claims.

  • Novem­ber 2018

    In Novem­ber 2018, for­mer New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bar­bara Under­wood led a coali­tion of nine attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of the City’s appeal of the low­er court deci­sion. The brief not­ed that claims sim­i­lar to the City’s are not dis­placed by fed­er­al com­mon law as Supreme Court case law does not sup­port the con­clu­sion that tort law­suits relat­ed to harms stem­ming from green­house gas emis­sions are cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly out­side the purview of state com­mon law.

    The attor­neys gen­er­al also point­ed out that the low­er court erred in deter­min­ing that the Clean Air Act bars the City’s fed­er­al com­mon law claims because the dis­trict court’s analy­sis of the City’s claims is incon­sis­tent. If the Clean Air Act pre­empts fed­er­al com­mon law, then there is no avail­able fed­er­al com­mon law to dis­place the City’s state com­mon law claims. Instead, the remain­ing ques­tion is whether the Clean Air Act pre­empts state law, which it does not as Con­gress, in enact­ing the Clean Air Act, lacked a clear and man­i­fest” intent to pre­empt state com­mon law claims with the legislation.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    In Feb­ru­ary 2019, the fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies filed their open­ing brief in the appel­late lit­i­ga­tion, argu­ing that the Sec­ond Cir­cuit should affirm the low­er court’s dis­missal of the City’s claims. In the fol­low­ing month, March 2019, the City of New York filed its reply brief to the defen­dants’ open­ing brief.

City of Baltimore

  • July 2018

    In 2018, the May­or and City Coun­cil of Bal­ti­more filed a law­suit against major oil com­pa­nies in state court. The com­plaint alleged that the oil com­pa­nies con­tributed to cli­mate change by extract­ing, pro­duc­ing, pro­mot­ing and sell­ing fos­sil fuels, while deceiv­ing the pub­lic about the known harms of fos­sil fuel prod­ucts. Bal­ti­more brought eight state law claims against the oil com­pa­nies for the injuries – includ­ing ris­ing sea lev­els and an increase in extreme weath­er events – the City has suf­fered as a result of cli­mate change.

  • July 2018

    In July 2018, two of the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies filed a notice of removal action to remove the lit­i­ga­tion to fed­er­al dis­trict court in Mary­land. Bal­ti­more, in response, filed a motion to remand the law­suit back to state court to prop­er­ly hear the City’s state law claims. 

  • June 2019

    In June 2019, the fed­er­al dis­trict court in Mary­land ruled that removal of the lit­i­ga­tion to fed­er­al court was improp­er and grant­ed Baltimore’s remand motion.

  • June 2019

    That same month the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies appealed the dis­trict court rul­ing to the Fourth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals. 

  • Sep­tem­ber 2019

    In Sep­tem­ber 2019, Mary­land Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bri­an Frosh led a coali­tion of nine attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief in sup­port of Baltimore’s efforts to uphold the dis­trict court’s order remand­ing the case to state court. The ami­cus not­ed that revers­ing the dis­trict court’s order would be improp­er as Baltimore’s claims do not raise any fed­er­al issue, do not inher­ent­ly arise under fed­er­al com­mon law and are not pre­empt­ed by the fed­er­al Clean Air Act.

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, the Fourth Cir­cuit ruled in favor of Bal­ti­more and upheld the dis­trict court’s order remand­ing the lit­i­ga­tion back to state court. The court held that fed­er­al juris­dic­tion was improp­er because the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies failed to show that fed­er­al offi­cials had con­trolled their out­put of fos­sil fuels.

  • March 2020

    That same month, the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies filed a peti­tion for a writ of cer­tio­rari with the Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States. The oil com­pa­nies are seek­ing review of whether the fed­er­al-offi­cer removal statute per­mits an appeals court to review any issue encom­passed in a dis­trict court’s order remand­ing a removed case to state court where the remov­ing defen­dant premised removal in part on the fed­er­al-offi­cer removal statute. The oil com­pa­nies had assert­ed the fed­er­al-offi­cer removal statute as one of the grounds for remov­ing the City’s com­plaint to fed­er­al dis­trict court.

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, the Mary­land Cir­cuit Court placed on hold state court con­sid­er­a­tion of the City of Baltimore’s law­suit pend­ing a Supreme Court deci­sion on the oil com­pa­nies’ peti­tion for writ of cer­tio­rari and Supreme Court deci­sions in two cas­es involv­ing ques­tions about per­son­al juris­dic­tion. The per­son­al juris­dic­tion lit­i­ga­tion is per­ti­nent to the state lit­i­ga­tion as the defen­dant oil com­pa­nies assert­ed a lack of per­son­al juris­dic­tion as the basis for dis­miss­ing the law­suit in Mary­land state court.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, the Supreme Court grant­ed cer­tio­rari on the oil com­pa­nies’ peti­tion. The Supreme Court will con­sid­er the oil com­pa­nies’ con­tention that the dis­trict court’s remand of the lit­i­ga­tion back to state court is sub­ject to appel­late review where the remov­ing defen­dant premised removal in part on the fed­er­al-offi­cer removal statute.

  • Novem­ber 2020

    In Novem­ber 2020, the oil com­pa­nies filed their brief in the Supreme Court lit­i­ga­tion, argu­ing that the City’s claims should be heard in fed­er­al court. A week lat­er, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion filed an ami­cus curi­ae brief in sup­port of the posi­tion of the defen­dant oil companies.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James and Rhode Island Attor­ney Gen­er­al Peter Nerohna led a coali­tion of 20 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing an ami­cus brief with the Supreme Court in sup­port of the City of Baltimore’s law­suit. The attor­neys gen­er­al urged the Supreme Court to uphold the Fourth Circuit’s deci­sion as the court prop­er­ly lim­it­ed its review of the dis­trict court deci­sion to the ques­tion of fed­er­al-offi­cer removal or civ­il rights juris­dic­tion. The brief also not­ed that near­ly every oth­er cir­cuit court of appeals who had con­sid­ered the ques­tion pre­sent­ed to the Fourth Cir­cuit has adopt­ed a hold­ing sim­i­lar to that of the Fourth Cir­cuit in the City of Bal­ti­more litigation.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    Oral argu­ments were held in Jan­u­ary 2021

  • May 2021

    In May 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that the oil com­pa­nies could seek review of all the issues in the remand deci­sion and sent the case back to the Court of Appeals.