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Biden administration sides with climate lawsuit against fossil fuel companies

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The US Department of Justice filed a legal brief Thursday in support of local governments in Colorado that are part of a growing wave of local and state governments pursuing climate litigation against fossil fuel companies.In the brief, the DoJ argued that the Colorado case against the Canadian energy giant Suncor should be heard in state court, which is considered more favourable than federal court for plaintiffs who are suing oil companies over climate change.

ExxonMobile is also a defendant in the case.Experts say the DoJ brief is an action by the administration in support of climate litigation, fulfilling a campaign promise by President Joe Biden. “They’ve definitely come out on the side that the climate advocates wanted,” said Dan Farber, law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.State and local governments across the country have filed lawsuits in recent years alleging that energy giants, including Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP, failed to warn the public about the harms of fossil fuels and engaged in deception or misrepresentation about their products, resulting in devastating climate emergencies in those jurisdictions.

In court filings, fossil fuel companies have argued that media coverage of climate change extends back to the 1950s but local governments continued to promote and encourage production and use of oil and gas.Supporters of the wave of climate lawsuits have compared them to cases against Big Tobacco in the 1990s that resulted in settlements of more than $200bn against cigarette companies.

If the lawsuits are successful, they could change how firms do business, compel companies to pay for climate adaptation, and reinforce banking industry concerns that fossil fuels are a risky investment.Si

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