Conservative States, Companies and Chamber of Commerce Back Oil Companies In Rhode Island Climate Lawsuit

In the last week, multiple amicus curiae briefs were filed in State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co. LLC. et. al. in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. The briefs were filed by a coalition of 15 states, several national associations of energy-related companies, and the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, all in support of the defendant energy companies. 

Initially, the State of Rhode Island filed their complaint against various energy producers, many of which are oil companies, for allegedly harming the environment and accelerating and amplifying the effects of climate change with their business practices. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that “the production and promotion of fossil fuels constitutes a common law ‘public nuisance’ such that courts may impose on the defendant energy producers all the costs of remedying its alleged climate-change injuries.”

The defendants filed to remove the case to federal court, but the district court granted the plaintiff’s motion to remand the case back to state court. In all of the amicus curiae briefs, the amici argued that the defendants were entitled to remove the case to federal court, since “Rhode Island’s common-law public-nuisance claim arises under federal law.” The 15 states said they worry that this ruling “threatens to give Rhode Island state courts the power to set climate-change policy for the entire country.”

Other amici claimed that Rhode Island was using this lawsuit to “export their preferred environmental policies and their corresponding economic effects to other states,” since they believe that federal common law issues should be resolved in federal courts.

The amici all asked that the Court vacate the district court’s remand order and bring the case back to federal court.

The 15 states are represented by their respective attorneys general offices. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America is represented by Goodwin Procter LLP, and the National Association of Manufacturers, Energy Marketers of America and National Association of Convenience Stores are represented by Shook Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.