Republican attorneys general ask Supreme Court to block climate change lawsuits brought by several states

Republican attorneys general from 19 states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block several Democratic-led states from bringing climate change lawsuits against the oil and gas industry in their own state courts.

The unusual request comes as dozens of states and local governments have filed lawsuits alleging that fossil fuel companies misled the public about the risks of their products contributing to climate change. The lawsuits claim billions of dollars in damages caused by severe storms, wildfires and sea level rise.

The Republican action specifically seeks to stop lawsuits filed by California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island, although other states, tribes, counties and cities have also filed lawsuits.

GOP lawyers argue that only the federal government can regulate interstate gas emissions, and that states have no power to apply their own laws to a global atmosphere that extends far beyond their borders. The court filing also contends that climate-related lawsuits could increase energy costs in other states, including electricity generated from natural gas.

“They have no authority to dictate our national energy policy,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday in a statement announcing the lawsuit of the 19 states. “If the Supreme Court allows them to continue, California and its allies will jeopardize access to affordable energy for all Americans.”

The California attorney general’s office on Friday denounced the Republican request to the Supreme Court as baseless and vowed to continue its case against the oil and gas companies.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong mocked it as “pure partisan political theater.” And Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called the Republican effort “absurd” and noted that the U.S. Supreme Court already allowed the state’s case to proceed in a Minnesota court.

Lawsuits typically begin in district courts before reaching the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. But the Constitution allows some cases to begin in the high court when states are involved. The Supreme Court can reject a request for original jurisdiction.

The request by Republican attorneys general is “very unusual” and is used most often in state disputes over water rights, not “as an attempt to shut down lawsuits from other states,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for the Law. of Climate Change at Columbia University in New York.

States joining Alabama’s request include Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The Supreme Court could also intervene in climate change lawsuits through other means. Already pending before the high court is a separate request by oil industry defendants to overturn a Hawaii Supreme Court decision that allowed a climate change lawsuit brought by Honolulu to move forward in state court.


Associated Press writers Adam Beam, Susan Haigh and Steve Karnowski contributed to this report.