The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity,

Supreme Court Sends Baltimore Climate Damages Case Back to Appeals Court

Narrow procedural ruling does not address merits of Baltimore’s effort to hold big oil accountable for causing and lying about climate change.


The U.S. Supreme Court today ordered a federal appeals court to review additional arguments to determine whether the City of Baltimore's lawsuit seeking to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for climate damages they knowingly caused should be heard in state or federal court.

In BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals erred when it agreed with a lower court that Baltimore's lawsuit should proceed in state court, where it was filed, because the appeals court found that its scope of review on the question of jurisdiction was limited only to whether or not the oil defendants acted with or on behalf of the federal government. Three other federal appeals courts -- the First, Ninth, and Tenth -- reached the same conclusion in similar climate liability lawsuits.

The Court declined to consider whether Baltimore and similar cases belong in state or federal court or the merits of the claims themselves.

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

"This narrow procedural ruling may ultimately have little impact on efforts by Baltimore and more than 20 other states and municipalities to hold oil and gas corporations accountable for causing and lying about climate change. Virtually every court to consider this jurisdictional issue has agreed that climate damages cases filed in state court belong in state court; the one outlier ruling was overturned. While today's ruling may cause a delay for some municipalities seeking their day in court, Big Oil can't escape accountability forever."

Background on Climate Liability Cases:

Since 2017, 25 communities, including the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Rhode Island; the District of Columbia, and 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington have filed lawsuits to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for deceiving the public about climate change. Learn about those cases here.

The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) helps cities and states across the country hold corporate polluters accountable for the massive impacts of climate change.

(919) 307-6637