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Federal judge tosses NYC's climate change suit against big oil companies

"The immense and complicated problem of global warming" isn't a question for the courts, the judge said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a bill

Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a bill signing ceremony in the Governor's Room at City Hall, Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

A federal judge has rejected Mayor Bill de Blasio’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against some of the biggest oil and gas companies to recover what New York City claims it is spending to combat climate change.

Addressing a matter such as “the immense and complicated problem of global warming” isn’t a question for the courts but for politicians in Washington, D.C., and “requires a comprehensive solution that weighs the global benefits of fossil fuel use with the gravity of the impending harms,” U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan wrote Thursday in a 23-page order dismissing the suit against BP, Conocophillips, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell.

“To litigate such an action for injuries from foreign greenhouse gas emissions in federal court,” Keenan wrote, “would severely infringe upon the foreign-policy decisions that are squarely within the purview of the political branches of the U.S. government.”

Seth Stein, a mayoral spokesman, emailed early Thursday evening that the city would appeal the dismissal of the suit, which was filed in January on the theory that the oil and gas industry poses a nuisance.

“The mayor believes big polluters must be held accountable for their contributions to climate change and the damage it will cause New York City,” Stein wrote. “We intend to appeal this decision and to keep fighting for New Yorkers who will bear the brunt of climate change.”

In late June, a federal judge in San Francisco tossed a suit filed under an essentially identical legal theory by that city and neighboring Oakland.

Two weeks after his oil suit, de Blasio's lawyers sued distributors and manufacturers of prescription painkillers for a half-billion dollars, which is the city's estimated cost in tackling opioid death and addiction.

The opioid suit is related to one filed in 2016 on behalf of Suffolk County.


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