For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, mike@climateintegrity.org

Supreme Court Will Hear Big Oil’s Plea to Escape Accountability in Climate Damages Lawsuit Jan. 19

CCI calls on Justice Barrett to recuse over family ties to Shell oil.

Baltimore's lawsuit seeks to make major fossil fuel companies, including BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell, pay for climate damages they knowingly caused.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Tuesday, January 19, over a key procedural issue in Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C. et al., one of more than 20 state and municipal lawsuits seeking to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for causing and lying about the climate crisis. 

The defendants include BP, Exxon, Chevron, and Shell, where Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s father, Michael Coney, worked as a senior attorney for decades, leading Barrett to recuse herself from cases involving Shell while on the Seventh Circuit. According to a January 8 notice in the case, Justice Samuel Alito took no part in considering a recent motion, but Barrett’s name was not mentioned — raising the possibility that she could participate in the case despite her clear conflict of interest.

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, called on Justice Barrett to recuse herself from the case and released the following statement:

“Big Oil’s arguments are nothing more than a desperate effort to escape accountability for lying to the public about the climate damages they knew their products would cause. 

“The fossil fuel industry is laser-focused on evading justice by throwing up one procedural roadblock after another. Their tortured strategy is only matched by their sordid trail of lies about the climate damage they knowingly caused. 

“Given Justice Barrett’s deep family connections to Shell Oil, and prior recusals from Shell cases, she must do the right thing and recuse herself from this case. Anything less would raise serious ethical questions and tarnish the integrity of the nation’s highest court. What would be the rationale for Justice Barrett to recuse herself from cases involving Shell at the Seventh Circuit, but not at the highest court in the land?” 

Barrett’s ties to Big Oil:

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While on the Seventh Circuit, Justice Amy Coney Barrett recused herself from lawsuits involving Shell Oil, where her father, Michael Coney, worked as a senior attorney. Michael Coney also worked for the American Petroleum Institute, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief with other industry groups that have financial ties to the defendants. In 2008, he joined the oil and gas law firm Carver Darden, which lists Shell Offshore Inc. as a client. 

Question before the Court on January 19:

The justices agreed to hear a request from BP, Chevron, Exxon, and Shell and other defendants to review a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that allowed Baltimore’s lawsuit to proceed in state court. The oil and gas defendants, who have consistently tried and failed to remove Baltimore’s and similar lawsuits to federal court, asked the high court to review a narrow procedural issue in the Fourth Circuit’s ruling. The question before the court concerns the proper scope of review of appellate courts when reviewing a district court’s remand order. 

Three other federal appeals courts — the First, Ninth, and Tenth — have agreed with the Fourth Circuit in other climate liability cases that their scope of review was limited and that damages lawsuits against oil and gas companies in Rhode Island, California, and Colorado, respectively, could proceed in state court. 

Twenty attorneys general, six U.S. Senators, legal scholars, and state and local government groups including the National Council of State Legislatures, Council of State Governments, National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, and U.S. Conference of Mayors, filed briefs in support of Baltimore. 

Background on Climate Liability Cases:

Since 2017, 24 communities, including the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island; the District of Columbia, and more than a dozen city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington have brought lawsuits under different claims to recover billions of dollars in damages caused by the oil and gas industry’s deception about climate change. Learn about those cases here.

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The Center for Climate Integrity, a project of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, directs Pay Up Climate Polluters. CCI and its partners in law, science and advocacy work to make Big Oil and Gas pay their fair share of the damages their products helped cause.

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