4th Circuit Court of Appeals Remands Baltimore Climate Lawsuit to State Court
A three-judge panel from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Baltimore's law suit seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for climate change impacts belongs in state court. Baltimore claims that 26 major fossil fuel producers and distributors have known for decades that fossil fuels have a role in driving climate change but deliberately failed to inform the public.
Chevron led the effort to move the suit to federal court shortly after it was filed July 20, 2018. The city responded by seeking to return the suit to state court. In June of 2019, US District Judge Ellen L. Hollander rejected the move to federal court but granted the fossil fuel companies a 30-day stay to prepare an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. According to Judge Hollander, Baltimore's public nuisance claim is founded on Maryland state law, does not rely on federal statutes or regulations, and cannot be determined under federal law. Judge Hollander rejected previous reasoning by other federal judges in similar cases that had ruled in favor of federal jurisdiction citing preemption of state law regarding climate change.
On March 6, 2020 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Hollander's decision.
Fossil fuel companies had already asked the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) to stay any such decision and accept a petition to consider the matter of jurisdiction directly. On October 22, 2019, SCOTUS denied the application for stay.
4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion - Mayor and City Council Baltimore v BP P.L.C., et al.
US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit | March 6, 2020 | Docket No. 19-1644