Judge William Alsup Dismisses Oakland, San Francisco Climate Change Lawsuit

Federal Judge William Alsup dismissed Oakland, San Francisco climate change lawsuit.

The City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco’s very misguided attempt to penalize oil companies for alleged damages tied to global warming was thrown out today by United States District Court for the Northern District of California Federal Judge William Alsup, who said modern life would not exist without liquid fuels and that it was wrong to penalize the companies that made products the public depends upon to exist.

While Judge Alsup did point to the problem of climate change, as did the oil companies, he said the courts were not the place to deal with the matter.

John Schwartz gives some detail of the Judge’s decision in the New York Times, but no copy of the text of what Judge Alsop wrote has been available on any media web page as text – until now. The entire Judge Alsup ruling text is here.

“The worldwide problem of global warming should be determined by our political branches, not by our judiciary. In sum, this order accepts the science behind global warming. So do both sides. The dangers raised in the complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide.worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches. The Court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches. For the reasons stated, defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED, “wrote Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco in ruling against the cities.

The ruling was a shocking defeat and major embarrassment for the otherwise capable Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera. In fairness, it must be noted that both Parker and Herrera have accepted campaign contributions and support from Tom Steyer, the billionaire who demanded they pursue the litigation against the major oil companies.

This is the third time such nuisance-style lawsuits from activists have been rejected by the courts. The cities wanted the defendants – including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell – to help pay for projects like protecting coastlines from flooding. A better objective would have been to tie litigation to the needs of Oakland and San Francisco.

At a time where the homeless population is at record levels, and public transportation funding has challenges, it’s confusing that both cities would invest time and money on a lawsuit that has no immediate benefit to the people of Oakland and San Francisco.
In the past, Oakland, in particular, would actvate its contracted lobbyists to get behind legislation to deal with an important matter like this one.

But today, Oakland feels the need to litigate everything in court, rather than find ways to pass laws to make government work to improve market behavior, with respect to the environment and economic development.

The full text of Judge Alsup’s ruling can be read here.

Stay tuned.

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