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U.S. District Court judge tosses out climate change lawsuits against Big Oil

U.S. District Court judge tosses out climate change lawsuits against Big Oil

Progressives’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week in the US court system continues.

Progressives are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week in the once friendly American court system.

This April, I noted that U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California is overseeing the lawsuits that the cities of Oakland and San Francisco filed last fall against six fossil fuel giants. The two cities are seeking to hold the oil companies liable for the cost of infrastructure upgrades and remediation expected as they deal with effects of rising sea levels.
The innovative judge began his review of the case by allowing both sides to give a climate change tutorial. This week, he tossed out the case against Big Oil entirely.

The decision is a stinging defeat for the plaintiffs, San Francisco and Oakland, and raises warning flags for other local governments around the United States that have filed similar suits, including New York City.

The judge, William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco, acknowledged the science of global warming and the great risks to the planet, as did the oil and gas companies being sued. But in his ruling, Judge Alsup said the courts were not the proper place to deal with such global issues, and he rejected the legal theory put forth by the cities.

“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” Judge Alsup wrote in a 16-page opinion.

While many well-informed science professionals disagree that man contributes significantly to climate change, the lawyers for the petroleum companies (including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell) decided to focus on the limited effect on climate correction that giving these two cities gobs of money would produce. Additionally, Alsup seemed keen on noting that significant shifts in global climate occurred before mankind began producing gasoline, a point made in Big Oil’s tutorial and one I have often featured at Legal Insurrection.

Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of Alsup’s ruling was the reference to the contributions that fossil fuels have made to our quality of life.

“Our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal,” he wrote. “Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible.”

In light of that, he asked: “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? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”

Intriguingly, like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asserted in the recent travel order ruling, Alsup noted that the court was limited in scale in its ability to implement policies. While the travel ban ruling supported the President, the US District Judge recommended that the solutions to “climate change” were better supplied by the legislative and executive branches.

Alsup, noting that Congress and the White House, not the judiciary, are responsible for addressing the fallout from fossil fuels, granted the industry’s request to dismiss the suits.

“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” he wrote.

I sure hope Alsup doesn’t get the kind of harassment and abuse that has been directed at President Trump, Trump’s family, or administrative officials as a result of this surprisingly rational decision.


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Because my son, through another relative, will soon own a lucrative portion of an oil lease in Fresno County, I believe that I have a dog in this fight.

Hurray for the judge! After all, if you own stock in, and continue to consume massive quantities of that specific product, how can you justify suing them while refusing to personally wean yourself from using it, all the while claiming foreknowledge? The hypocrisy of the left is stunning.

Black gold, organic fuel, high calorie, to cruise Route 66.

“The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case,” he wrote.

A judge in the 9th Circuit with a sense of proportion, and perhaps a touch of humility. That is refreshing.

“So if we sell a million gallons of gasoline, how much does that raise the global temperature?”

“Um. Three one-billionth’s of a degree.”

William Alsup for SCOTUS?

The Friendly Grizzly | June 27, 2018 at 8:30 pm

Please stop blocking the right side of the mobile site with pop-up auto-play commercials. Thank you.

I have a lovable, but left of center family member that I enjoy sparring with over politics. This has been a horrible, depressing week for her. She has become more emotional with her misplaced anger toward Trump. If the Democrats fail to block a constitutional conservative to fill Kennedy’s seat, I worry about her sanity. This experience is being played out by millions of slightly left of center Democrats. I’m afraid they will result to some form of violence as they see the last vestige of demiGod Obama’s eight year reign become swept into the dustbin of history. She doesn’t understand the importance of Democrat Rep Crowley losing to a Bernie Sanders socialist acolyte. When her party needs to move toward the center, it’s apparent that they are careening leftward to a huge and delicious train wreck of epic proportions.

    Tom Servo in reply to Redneck Law. | June 27, 2018 at 11:00 pm

    I think CNN and MSNBC are responsible for a lot of this, and are doing a remarkable disservice to their most loyal viewers. They tell their viewers “Trump is going to be impeached any day! His administration is falling apart!!! The end is near!!!” and they never acknowledge that their reporting has absolutely nothing to do with reality. They’re going to be like Baghdad Bob, reporting a Great Victory by the Iraqi Army as a line of US M1’s snake into the city in the background behind him.

    and when events like those this week take place and cannot be denied, their poor believing followers have to face not only the great disappointment of a loss, but also the collapse of their entire worldview. For many on the left, that may be a blow too harsh to bear.

Judge Alsup said the courts were not the proper place to deal with such global issues

He was right, courts are hardly the place to deal with either scientific questions, or matters of policy. Both science (i.e., the real world) and representative government (an imaginary world, but our imaginary world) are at higher pay grades than courts.

After acknowledging that, the proper thing to do is shut up about the subject. Just as courts are not the forum for these questions, judges are not the ones to pontificate usefully about them. Might as well ask a judge for useful comments about surgical technique, or celestial navigation, or metallurgy.

But he couldn’t manage to just sit back and shut up. Oh, no.

“The problem deserves a solution … “

That’s a matter of measurement, not judgement. Until you prove it’s a problem, you have no call to recommend—let alone demand—a solution … any solution. And you don’t prove it with a seminar staged by a bunch of lawyers. You prove it with observations and measurements. Some of us have actually done it, and are still doing it now. Such people are called scientists. They’re not called judges.

    Tom Servo in reply to tom_swift. | June 27, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    I’ve been posting with the gang over at WUWT this week on this, working to convince them that Legally, this was a fantastic decision for our side, even though it mostly ignored the actual science in play. (and that does annoy the people who are focused on the science) As most here probably know, when the outcome of a certain issue is going to be incidental to the outcome of the case, the Court will usually not waste much time with it.

    In this case, neither side chose to dispute whether or not “Global Warming” was happening, although the record of who did what, when was looked at. Judge Alsup took the position that EVEN iF all the claims about Global Warming was exactly as the plaintiffs stated, the Court could still NOT supply any remedy to the plaintiffs. He told them that if they wanted relief, they had to go through a legislature, not the courts. And having read through his full opinion, I must say that I thought it remarkably well reasoned, on every legal issue raised. I feel that it is comprehensive enough to serve as a template for throwing out any lawsuit of this kind filed anywhere in the United States.

This is really unfortunate. From my point of view, suing the oil companies was a mistake, because a civil court is where you must produce facts in support of your position, a resource in short supply on the warmist side of the argument. They have a lot of “experts” who can point to computer models of how their theory of anthropomorphic global warming/climate change might work, but they have nothing that proves the theory is correct. They have nothing but correlation, but can’t prove causation. There has not been a paper published in a scientific journal proving otherwise. There are also a number of experts who could testify that although man’s activities probably have an affect on the climate, they would at the same time admit that it is probably too small an effect to detect because of the noise in the data. (In other words, humanity’s contribution to “climate change” is too small to measure.) In a battle of facts, without the spin of the MSM, the oil companies would have handed the plaintiffs their heads. It would have been the end of the climate change swindle.

    My disappointment is the oil companies passed on the obvious first step.
    Ask the Judge to repeal all government contracts from the suing parties for all oil and oil based products. If the governments pronounce those products very existence is more harmful than the benefits they provide (using their secret data through secret equations and secret evaluations-and yes the EPA has successfully taken in court the position of secrets that they cannot be forced to disclose) why are those government groups still buying those supposedly unduly environmentally harmful products? Either the gov employees involved are right and then why are they continuing to willfully make things worse, or they are wrong (SLAPP level wrong) and driving costs up for everybody and should be fired to prevent any recurrence.

    Dave, I think that the oil companys’ tactic in agreeing to “Global Warming” took the matter of proving the factual basis for it off the table. While I would love to see this issue contested, the defendants probably wanted to streamline the trial’s cost while limiting their risks.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Redneck Law. | June 28, 2018 at 9:31 am

      They were playing for a draw (dismissal) rather than a win. That’s the first tactic lawyers resort to when they believe it a viable option (as it obviously was in this case because it worked). As Bruce Lee would say, it’s the art of fighting widdout fighting.

curious how the counter suit goes- whereby the cities are being sued for failing to disclose the risk to investors in their bond offerings.

DouglasJBender | June 28, 2018 at 5:15 am

I think it’s a bit unfair that Little Oil has been ignored in all of this.

What I find shocking about the Left and lawsuits such as this one is how they focus on a problem that appears to exist only in a poorly developed theory while ignoring the absolute, concrete benefits of hydrocarbon fuels. No other energy source provides what gas and diesel fuels do and the benefit of these fuels is overwhelming as compared to the highly questionable effects of global warming. Their lawsuit is akin to suing electric power generating companies due to potential cancers caused by EMF (another bogus claim rooted in hysteria and bad science). (As a research chemistry and a professor who taught toxicology for decades, I have read the actual research papers on these two subject and have seen how highly flawed they are. They are so highly flawed, in fact, I remain shocked that they ever made it through the peer review system.)

    Milhouse in reply to Cleetus. | June 28, 2018 at 6:24 am

    To coin a Yogi-Berraism, the peer review system ain’t what it used to be, and never was.

      Tom Servo in reply to Milhouse. | June 28, 2018 at 9:27 am

      I like that! Reports of the problems with the peer review system are widespread, and extend far beyond the climate change issue. A year or so ago some intellectual pranksters managed to get a “peer reviewed” article published in some scientific journal, and then revealed that it was nothing but 30 or 40 pages of computer generated cyber-babble.

Big Oil should STOP selling all products in those 2 cities in CA. When the Whiny lunatic liberals have to drive to another city to fuel their BWM’s their tune will change !!

    ronk in reply to tcurran. | June 28, 2018 at 11:05 am

    they’ll do what the people of British Columbia did when they raised the gas prices to equivalent of about $6 a gallon, go to the United States to buy gas, what the people of Philadelphia do is they can go to an outlying city to buy soda, and other stuff. bottom line people will find a way around it they can, even through they might be responsible for the problem in the first place.

      Arminius in reply to ronk. | June 29, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      Most people in Kali would have to drive for hours to get to a Nevada or Arizona gas station. Then hours back. That’s a lot of trouble to go through just to have a quarter tank of gas by the time you pull into your driveway.

      I’m sure some people in B.C. do cross the border to buy gas in the U.S. But they’re people who live close to the border. People in Kali who live close enough to state lines are already buying gas in Nevada and Arizona.

      And I’d love it if “Big Oil” refused to renew any oil or gas contracts with every single state, county, or municipal agency in Kali (and they do buy bulk unleaded gas and diesel #2; it’s listed on the state procurement agency’s commodity contracts website). Let them pay full retail.