More Than 80 Climate-Related Lawsuits Hit U.S. Courts in 2017
More than 80 climate change-related lawsuits were filed in American courts in 2017, according to Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, which set out “to understand how litigation countered—and at times courted—the influx of climate change deregulation during the first year of the Trump administration.”
According to an executive summary of the report by Climate Law Fellow Dena Adler, 60 of the cases in the review argued in favour of climate protection, while 22 opposed it. Of the 60 pro-climate cases, 14 involved defending Obama-era climate change policies and decisions directly, while the remainder were concerned with promoting transparency and scientific integrity from the Trump administration, integrating climate change considerations into environmental reviews, and “advancing or enforcing additional climate protections through the courts.”
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
The mix of those cases also points toward “new developments, such as a surge of municipalities suing fossil fuel companies under state common law.”
Cases filed in support of Trump’s rollback agenda, Adler notes, “ranged from petitions to review Obama administration climate rules, to contestations over state-level denials of environmental permits for fossil fuel infrastructure, to charges of defamation against critics of the fossil fuel industry.”
Non-government organizations brought forward more than half of the cases, both pro and con, Adler found. “Looking within the pro category,” she writes, “NGOs brought 72% of the pro-litigation items,” with “municipal, state, and tribal government entities [being] plaintiffs or petitioners in 28% of pro cases, including actions from more than a dozen states.”
Industry entities, mostly private companies and trade groups, “brought 20% of total cases and 68% of con cases,” Adler states, adding that “conservative think tanks closely aligned with industry interests” took part in 27% of the con cases.
While more than a dozen U.S. government agencies faced legal action, 55% of the cases against federal defendants focused on the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, their officials, or “sub-entities” within the two departments.