Global warming, fossil fuels focus of new wave of lawsuits

 Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images, as reported by Vox, 2/22/19.


Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images, as reported by Vox, 2/22/19.

Fossil fuel producers could follow in the footsteps of tobacco companies, based on a new string of lawsuits targeting global warming, according to a Vox Media story.

“In 1998, 46 states and the District of Columbia signed on to the largest civil litigation settlement in US history, the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement,” Vox notes, referring to the litigation that forced tobacco companies to pay out more than $206 billion over 25 years.

“Now another wave of lawsuits is trying to hold powerful institutions accountable for an even bigger crisis, by making them pay and change their ways,” Vox reports. “At least eight US cities, five counties, and one state are suing some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies for selling products that contribute to global warming while misleading the public about their harms. In parallel, 21 young people are trying to suspend fossil fuel development as part of their high-profile climate rights case, Juliana v. United States, against the government. (The case is currently awaiting a hearing at the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals.)”

Fossil fuel litigation could gain traction based on early precedents, Vox notes.

“The Environmental Protection Agency was forced to regulate carbon dioxide to fight climate change as the result of a 2007 Supreme Court decision in a lawsuit, Massachusetts v. EPA,” the site explains.

Yet, these broad lawsuits can backfire as well.

“Climate change lawsuits could lead to multibillion-dollar payouts, and force an unwilling government to make cutting greenhouse gases a central priority. Both types of cases could set precedents that would last for decades,” Vox notes. “But litigation takes years of effort and can cost millions. If a court or a jury rules against the plaintiffs, they could end up worse off than when they started.”

EPA set to overturn Obama-era vehicle efficiency rules, California sues

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Photo Credit:
Wikipedia

According to the Washington Post, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt will revisit Obama-era vehicle efficiency rules. Obama’s policy to address climate change would raise efficiency requirements on the nation’s automobile fleet to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. The Trump-era proposal would freeze the emissions standards at 2021 levels. The new plan would also challenge California’s ability to set its own fuel-efficiency rules.

A lawsuit — filed by California with support from other states and environmental groups – aims to try to block the overturn of Obama’s policy.

California Drought Brings Water-Rights Lawsuit

As reported on 6/19 in the Sacramento Bee: "Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch in the Sacramento Valley. | Jae C. Hong Associated Press file"

As reported on 6/19 in the Sacramento Bee: “Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch in the Sacramento Valley. | Jae C. Hong Associated Press file”

In what’s sure to become a milestone civil case, a group of water districts is suing California regulators over the state’s order prohibiting holders of some of the oldest water rights from pumping water out of rivers and streams. The Sacramento Bee newspaper explains that “… the lawsuit, filed in Stanislaus Superior Court, challenges the State Water Resources Control Board’s decision last week to ban diversions by 114 different rights holders in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds.”
 
The Bee adds that “… the affected groups are senior water rights holders. That means they’ve held the right to divert water since before 1914, when California established its rights system. Last week’s decision by the water board marked the first time since the drought of 1977 that any senior rights have been curtailed.”
 
Western state’s water laws are the stuff of legend, with some using “use it or lose it” policies that fall a bit short on conversation. Read more about the California situation here: Lawsuits challenge California’s drought plan