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Florida Is a 'Climate Litigation' Target, Warns National Manufacturers Group

July 12, 2019 - 6:30am
Florida Supreme Court
Florida Supreme Court

Activist groups lobbying municipalities nationwide to file lawsuits against utilities as part of a two-decade climate litigation campaign have changed tactics and are now targeting energy manufacturers. That's a shift posing significant repercussions for business, industry and consumers.

While “climate litigation” is now targeting “manufacturers in the energy sector” -- oil and natural gas companies, refiners, fuel transport, coal gas producers, distribution, sales and retailers, including gas stations – ultimately, consumers will pay should a lawsuit be successful.

Among those most vulnerable: Florida’s 20,000 manufacturing companies that employ nearly 400,000 people, contribute $50 billion annually to the state’s economy and use one-third of the fossil fuels consumed in the Sunshine State.

According to the National Association of Manufacturers [NAM], which represents 14,000 companies that employ 12.8 million Americans, at least 14 municipalities, one state and a California crab fishermen’s association have filed cases against energy manufacturers “with more entities likely to file additional lawsuits” soon.

While no “climate litigation” lawsuits have been filed in Florida, EarthRights International [ERI], a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, met several times last October with Fort Lauderdale city officials and its city commission to convince the city to bring lawsuits against “manufacturers in the energy sector.”

Ultimately, the city opted not to do so, but according to NAM, similar efforts are being launched in Miami Beach and Jacksonville by activists using a Center for Climate Integrity report, "Climate Costs in 2040: Florida" — which states Florida taxpayers will need to pay $75.9 billion to build seawalls as sea levels rise — as a call to action against energy manufacturers.

The shift is documented in a report released this week by NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project [MAP] titled ‘Beyond the Courtroom: Climate Liability Litigation in the United States.

The report traces “climate litigation” over a 20-year span, identifies key players and “the multifaceted operation that continues to generate and support these lawsuits,” including “a new wave of lawsuits against energy manufacturers hitting America’s courtrooms since 2017” which pose “a dangerous risk to all of the country’s manufacturing sectors.”

MAP’s report -- the first in a series -- “explores how the climate litigation campaign has grown into a well-funded and well-organized group of nonprofits and law firms, many of which stand to benefit from protracted fundraising campaigns even if they ultimately lose the lawsuits. All the while, they try to leverage their ability to recruit plaintiffs to file these lawsuits in their effort to drive national energy policy and a potential settlement, even if their claims have no legal merit.”

After several states sued utilities seeking to impose penalties and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2011 the United States Supreme Court – in an opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – unanimously rejected “climate litigation” in its American Electric Power (AEP) v. Connecticut ruling.

The court determined Congress and federal agencies are “better equipped” than lawsuits and judges to address climate change.

In 2012, according to MAP, “environmentalists and lawyers convened in La Jolla, Calif., to come up with new ideas for suing the energy industry over climate change. The fundamentals of the litigation remain the same, but they have tried in several ways to distinguish these lawsuits” from the AEP lawsuit.

“For example, the plaintiffs sued energy manufacturers instead of utilities, filed their lawsuits under state [not federal] tort law, and told judges they were not trying to stop manufacturers from promoting, producing or selling their energy products. Instead, they claim these lawsuits are only about making energy companies pay for impacts of climate change.

“To date,” the report continues, “courts have found these are differences without legal distinctions, and that selling, just like using, energy does not make one liable for global climate change.”

At least three lawsuits against energy manufacturers have been dismissed by district courts the past few years, MAP’s report notes.

Despite a track record of failure, “why are environmentalists, local governments, and private law firms still investing time and resources into these lawsuits?” the report asks, referring to a previous statement – because many “stand to benefit from protracted fundraising campaigns even if they ultimately lose the lawsuits.”

Florida TaxWatch, the James Madison Institute and the Florida Justice Reform Institute are among Florida organizations that have issued warnings about “climate litigation.”

“For policies to succeed, public officials must work with business,” James Madison Institute Vice President For Policy Sal Nuzzo wrote in a widely-published op-ed. “A hostile approach toward manufacturers would ill serve our state and hinder efforts to address environmental issues. Holding a handful of companies financially liable for changes in global climate patterns is akin to compelling Florida residents to turn off their air conditioners after sunset. State and local officials would certainly not inflict such pain on Floridians knowing it will not make a dent in tackling climate change.”

John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.


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In the Boulder case, the city had to agree they understood they might be liable for Exxon's legal fees if they lose. I doubt they would, or that they had ever heard of the American Electric Power litigation or understood how frivolous the case really was. The lawyers should have to pay Exxon's legal fees, instead of the taxpayers. Or, Exxon could take the initiative and file a RICO-SLAPP case. Otherwise, as you say, their main purpose is to attract attention and raise funds.

Here are a few facts: Over 95 percent of the greenhouse effect is the result of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth's average temperature would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. Most climate change is a result of the orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the sun's output. On top of that, natural wetlands produce more greenhouse gas contributions annually than all human sources combined.

Exactly, Patti!

"Pattie", you are "the voice of 'reason and knowledge'..., (among a group of Trolls "hidden under a bridge of stupidity"). Stay strong "Pattie",... Common Sense ALWAYS "wins out" in the end..!

It's a shame that the Democrat party has these plans to attack America's poor by making their electricity unaffordable. Now I understand why Hillary lost.

Ultimately, the simplest methodology is to put the dirty energy businesses completely out of business by focusing on replacing them with clean energy businesses. The future, at least in this country, will be all about sustainable 'renewables' - in energy and in other fields.

You and your like-minded dolts can go first. Once you and all your DNC ilk are disconnected from the grid, then we'll take you seriously. Otherwise you're just hypocrites.

Back in July 2017, Rubio and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, both of whom serve on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unveiled the “Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act.” The bill, which was also championed by U.S.

"Build sea walls as sea levels rise": WHAT A BOONDOGGLE, BASED UPON A PHONEY REDICULOUS PREMISE ! i ! (Very much like the prohibitively, expensive "sea wall" built around New Orleans to prohibit encroaching tides; with enough wasted money that could have built THREE ENTIRE WALLS ON THE MEXICAN BORDER, TO PROHIBIT " INVADING ILLEGAL ALIENS" ENCROACHMENT UPON AMERICA ! ! ! (The second greatest threat to this Country, and this State, are schuyster lawyers, and "Fat Al Gore's" phoney "climate claims"); just like the idiots in the 50's & 60's who walked city streets with sign-boards that read: "THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING!!!!) ! [ Stand up America,... The IDIOTS in Congress AND the Media ARE STEALING YOUR COUNTRY FROM RIGHT UNDER make you like Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, and every other "third world craphole" on the face of the Globe !!!!! STAND UP,.. OR BE RELEGATED TO THE "DUSTBIN OF HISTORY" !

These left-wing enemies of the state have known well that a successful attack on our energy sector can crash our economy which will then allow them to blame Capitalism for the collapse and replace it with a left-wing dictatorship. This is nothing new. We must fight them for every inch.

Seems to be an admission that climate change and its' consequences are real, mixed in with the angst over who should pay for it. We are ALL going to pay for it. So let's quit with the denial or hoax nonsense and develop a Manhattan style project to deal with it.

"who should pay for it" There is no "IT". It's all about who will RECEIVE the money stolen from the taxpayers. If you want to put a dent in carbon dioxide emissions, then go to China and India (the major sources) and tell them you plan on shutting down their energy usage. They'll laugh you all the way home.

"Ocean Joe", You're a prime example of one of America's blustering "Village Idiots"!

Ha, ha, ha! Mr. "Breeze" complaining about "blustering"! Ha, ha, ha.

That was so funny. Ha, ha, ha. You are a highly successful comedian. Ha, ha, ha. Did you make up those lines all by yourself? Ha, ha, ha.

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