Judge calls California climate lawsuits a conspiracy against energy companies and it’s not going to fly

DCNFChris White, DCNF

California officials are using the courts to orchestrate a coordinated conspiracy to punish Exxon Mobil for the company’s views on climate change, a Texas judge has determined.

(Image: WikiMedia)

Judge R.H. Wallace’s conclusion contradicts a federal judge’s ruling in March suggesting activists are not colluding with city officials to bring down energy companies. Exxon and others have been battling a flurry of lawsuits alleging they should be held responsible for global warming.

Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and other California municipalities likely “brought these lawsuits for an improper purpose,” Wallace wrote in a courtfiling released Wednesday. He was referring to a series of lawsuits alleging Exxon and others are partially responsible for the effects climate change plays on infrastructure.

Exxon, for its part, petitioned a Texas court in January to depose several public officials responsible for the handful of climate liability lawsuits filed in California. Exxon highlighted past bond disclosures showing officials argued they could not predict when sea levels would rise. The discrepancy is evidence the lawsuits were not brought in good faith, Exxon’s lawyers argued.

Wallace traced the lawsuits to the 2012 conference in La Jolla, Calif, which culminated in activist lawyer Matt Pawa and other anti-oil activists developing their agenda for bringing litigation against oil and gas companies.

“The conference participants concluded that using law enforcement powers and civil litigation to ‘maintain … pressure on the industry that could eventually lead to its support for legislative and regulatory responses to global warming,’” Wallace noted, referring to the conference.

“One commentator observed: ‘even if your ultimate goal might be to shut down a company, you still might be wise to start out by asking for compensation for injured parties,’” he said about comments from one of the conference participants. Chevron asked a court in March to dismiss the city’s litigation on the basis the company only produces fossil fuels; it doesn’t burn them.

“It is undisputed that Defendants did not control the fossil fuels at the time they allegedly created the nuisance — i.e., when they were combusted — and thus cannot be held liable,” Chevron said in a March 23 memo asking the court to dismiss the city’s lawsuit. The highly publicized climate tutorial quizzing Chevron and the other litigants about the science behind global warming overshadowed the memo.

“Plaintiffs’ claims depend on an attenuated causal chain including billions of intervening third parties — i.e., fossil fuel users like Plaintiffs themselves,” the company’s memo noted before adding the government had ostensibly given Chevron a license to produce oil and natural gas.

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