The City of New York has sued five multinational oil companies under New York tort law seeking to recover damages for the harms caused by global warming. The district court (Keenan, J.) dismissed the complaint. We affirm for substantially the same reasons as those articulated in the district court’s opinion. First, global warming is a uniquely international concern that touches upon issues of federalism and foreign policy. As a result, it calls for the application of federal common law, not state law. Second, the Clean Air Act grants the Environmental Protection Agency – not federal courts – the authority to regulate domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Federal common law actions concerning such emissions are therefore displaced. Lastly, while the Clean Air Act has nothing to say about regulating foreign emissions, judicial caution and foreign policy concerns counsel against permitting such claims to proceed under federal common law absent congressional direction. And since no such permission exists, each of the City’s claims is barred and its complaint must be dismissed.
The case was, IMO stupid and rightly dismissed: grandstanding pols wasting taxpayers money in order to burnish their own credentials. That the appeal meets the same fate is hardly a surprise; and hopefully it will be obvious even to them that trying the Supremes is dumb-as-rocks.
The meninwigs note that Even though every single person who uses gas and electricity – whether in travelling by bus, cab, Uber, or jitney, or in receiving home deliveries via FedEx, Amazon, or UPS – contributes to global warming, the City asserts that its taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of financing the City’s preparations to mitigate the effects of global warming; and this I think is why NYC's - and similar - cases are morally bankrupt even laying aside the legal aspects. But I've said that many times before. They miss a trick, though: they write As the City sees it, the Producers have known for decades that their fossil fuel products pose a severe risk to the planet’s climate but they fail to point out that the City also knew this just as well, as did any moderately well-informed citizen.
And we have the Alsupian To permit this suit to proceed under state law would further risk upsetting the careful balance that has been struck between the prevention of global warming, a project that necessarily requires national standards and global participation, on the one hand, and energy production, economic growth, foreign policy, and national security, on the other.
The vague attempted novelty of this claim was to attempt to side-step the obvious problems by using the law of nuisance. But this gets short shrift: That Congress chose to preempt the federal common law of nuisance with a well-defined and robust statutory and regulatory scheme of environmental law is by no means surprising. Numerous courts have bemoaned the “often . . . ‘vague’ and ‘indeterminate’” standards attached to nuisance law. And so on.
* Climate change and state evolution - Giacomo Benati and Carmine Guerriero, PNAS