Since the start of the Trump administration, state and city governments have been expanding their role in environmental regulation. Last fall, the cities of Oakland and San Francisco joined the states of New York and Massachusetts in bringing lawsuits against oil companies for perceived harms related to global warming. On Friday, attorneys general from 15 states pushed back on the lawsuit by filing an amicus brief in support of dismissing the case on behalf of the oil companies, arguing that the cities’ lawsuit was an attempt to answer a political question in the courts and threatened to result in extraterritorial regulation of economic activity outside of California.
“In the name of the State of California, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland seek to harness the power and prestige of federal courts to remedy global climate change,” the attorneys general write.
The attorneys general of Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming all signed on to the brief. The inclusion of Colorado is particularly interesting since it comes the same week that the city of Boulder began its own lawsuit against Suncor and Exxon Mobil.
The Oakland and San Francisco cases are worrying to many observers, who see them as a blatant attempt to use a court case in one state to impose environmental regulations on the entire country. For years, environmentalists had used suits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to push for the regulation of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. When he took over as head of the EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt specifically halted the practice, which he said undermined public participation and transparency.