Colorado fracking

A woman protests against fracking in Boulder, Colorado on April 16, 2012.

(Photo: Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

In Reversal of Trump-Era Stance, Biden DOJ Backs Colorado Communities Suing Big Oil

"The Justice Department has added its voice to a series of unanimous court rulings that support communities in their efforts to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their climate lies," said one campaigner.

Climate defenders on Thursday applauded the Justice Department's move to support communities suing a pair of oil companies by urging the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the corporations' bid to keep the case out of state court.

U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed an amicus brief urging the high court to deny a petition from ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy asking the justices to review lower court rulings allowing a lawsuit from three Colorado communities to proceed.

In 2018, Boulder County, San Miguel County, and the city of Boulder sued the corporations for damages related to their decades of fossil fuel extraction—which is fueling global heating—and their lies.

"It's past time that Big Oil companies face the evidence of their climate lies and answer to juries in state court."

Common Dreams reported in July 2020 that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lawsuit could proceed in state rather than federal court, the second time in two months that federal judges handed down such decisions.

Fossil fuel giants have repeatedly tried to shift such suits from state to federal courts in a bid to get the cases dismissed and avoid paying massive amounts of money for their significant contributions to the climate emergency.

"By finally ending its Trump-era support for Big Oil, the Justice Department has added its voice to a series of unanimous court rulings that support communities in their efforts to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for their climate lies," Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, said in a statement Thursday.

According to the Center for Climate Integrity:

On the campaign trail, President [Joe] Biden pledged he would direct his attorney general to "strategically support" such lawsuits, but the department had allowed its Trump-era support of oil companies to remain in effect until today. To date, five federal appeals courts and 13 federal district courts have unanimously ruled against the fossil fuel industry's arguments to avoid trials in state courts. Last year, the Supreme Court asked the Justice Department to express its views on the matter.

"Big Oil companies have fought tirelessly to escape accountability for fueling the climate crisis and then lying about it, but judges have uniformly denied their pleas to escape trial in state courts," said Wiles. "Communities in Colorado and across the U.S. have waited long enough for justice. It's past time that Big Oil companies face the evidence of their climate lies and answer to juries in state court."

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