The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, 

Oil Companies Lose Again: Baltimore Climate Lawsuit Belongs in State Court, Fourth Circuit Affirms

Two Federal Appeals Courts Have Now Handed Major Losses to Fossil Fuel Companies After the U.S. Supreme Court Ordered Expanded Review of Big Oil’s Arguments for Federal Jurisdiction


The City of Baltimore's lawsuit seeking to hold major oil and gas companies -- including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and Shell -- accountable for the cost of climate damages they knowingly caused should proceed in state court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in a unanimous decision today.

"In this case, a municipality has decided to exclusively rely upon state-law claims to remedy its own climate-change injuries, which it perceives were caused, at least in part, by Defendants' fossil-fuel products and strategic misinformation campaign," the three judge panel ruled. "These claims do not belong in federal court."

The Fourth Circuit decision marks the second time this year that a federal appeals court has rejected arguments from the oil industry to move one of the growing number of climate liability lawsuits filed in state court to federal court following a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

At least ten federal district courts have similarly ruled that climate accountability lawsuits filed in state court belong in state court -- "a batting average of .000" for the fossil fuel industry, in the words of one judge.

In response, Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

"This victory for the people of Baltimore shows that fossil fuel companies won't easily escape accountability for lying about their central role in the climate crisis and then sticking communities with the resulting bill.

"Once again, federal courts have rejected the oil and gas industry's attempts to evade justice in state court.

"Baltimore is now one important step closer to finally putting these polluters on trial to make them pay for the climate damages they knowingly caused."


The Fourth Circuit previously affirmed a lower court ruling to keep Baltimore's climate damages lawsuit in state court in 2020. But last year the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Fourth Circuit and others to consider an expanded list of arguments the oil and gas defendants made in support of federal jurisdiction.

The Fourth Circuit's ruling today will also set a precedent for climate accountability lawsuits filed by Charleston, South Carolina, and Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, Maryland -- all three of which are within the Fourth Circuit.

In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit became the first federal appellate court to rule on the issue in 2022, rejecting an expanded number of arguments the fossil fuel companies made to move a lawsuit brought by several Colorado communities to federal court.

Five other federal circuit courts across the country are considering similar arguments from Exxon and other oil and gas companies, which have repeatedly lost efforts to move climate accountability lawsuits out of state court.

Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products' role in climate change.

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

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