Twelve states, including Indiana, are asking a federal district court to throw out a climate lawsuit against oil giants. The states’ attorneys general filed a brief in the case this week.
King County in Washington is suing BP, Exxon Mobil, and other major oil companies for flooding and other damages caused by climate change. Damages from the suit could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
That concerns Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who is among several attorneys general who signed the brief. They say King County claims oil companies are liable because they promote the use of fossil fuels. With such a broad interpretation, the brief says Indiana and other states could be defendants in similar cases in the future.
It also says controlling pollution is the job of the Environmental Protection Agency and the states, not the courts. State Solicitor General Tom Fisher says one county in Washington shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions that affect Indiana’s economy.
“Trying to regulate emissions or any other kind of pollution type regulation through the federal courts outside of the Clean Air Act will cause problems for our regulatory interests,” he says.
While Hoosier Environmental Council executive director Jesse Kharbanda says he couldn't weigh in on this particular case, he said via email:
"Fossil fuel companies have known about the reality of man-made climate change for many years. They have understood the considerable role that they have played through their immense greenhouse gas emissions, which are drivers of that man-made climate change. These fossil fuel companies have understood that climate change's effects would wreak harm on several dimensions of the economy. In Indiana, those dimensions will include roads, bridges, water & wastewater systems, farming and forests. Just as we would hold a neighbor who were to intentionally dump waste on our property liable, so companies that knowingly do damage to other entities — by immense levels of 'greenhouse gas dumping' —need to be held accountable for their conduct."
Back in July, Attorney General Hill applauded the dismissal of a similar lawsuit brought by two cities in California.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.