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Attorney General William Tong

01/09/2020

Attorney General Tong Joins Amicus Brief in Support of State of Rhode Island in its Lawsuit to Hold Big Oil Accountable for Costs of Climate Change

Attorney General William Tong joined a coalition of 13 states in filing an amicus brief supporting the State of Rhode Island in its lawsuit State of Rhode Island v. Shell Oil Products Co., LLC, et al., which seeks to hold oil and petroleum companies accountable for their actions contributing to climate change and the resulting harms, including from sea-level rise, changes to the hydrologic cycle, and increased air and ocean temperatures.

"Big Oil ignored science and peddled the use of fossil fuels, dangerously accelerating climate change. Connecticut stands with Rhode Island in its fight to protect future generations, and holding these corporations accountable for their role in our climate crisis," said Attorney General Tong.

In its suit, Rhode Island alleges that the major fossil fuel producing companies knowingly contribute to climate change and failed to warn regulators and the public about the harms of fossil fuel use. Instead, these companies promoted pseudo-scientific theories and questioned legitimate climate science in order to confuse the public about their products and maintain their profits. The complaint argues that Big Oil should be liable for infrastructure-related damages resulting from their actions.

The case is currently pending in the First Circuit after the oil companies appealed a district court decision that the lawsuit belongs in the state court. In the brief, the coalition asserts that the district court decision should be affirmed.

The coalition argues that:

  • States play an important role in addressing climate change and protecting human welfare, including providing a forum to decide cases related to climate change;
  • The Clean Air Act recognizes states’ roles in reducing air pollution and does not indicate that the federal courts should have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving climate change; and
  • The defendants’ appeal to transfer the plaintiffs’ claims to federal court, knowing that similar claims have been displaced by Congress, could unjustly deny plaintiffs a remedy for harm.

Joining California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in filing the brief are the Attorneys General of Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Salton and Matthew Levine, Head of the Environment Department assisted the Attorney General with this matter.

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