The Florida Record has reported on newfound coordination between EarthRights International (ERI) and local political lobbyists to convince the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida to bring a nuisance lawsuit against energy interests for causing climate change. This coverage was prompted by public records obtained by the transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA) as well as by Government Accountability and Oversight (GAO). The new revelations about the nature and extent of this coordination also involve the plaintiffs’ firm Sher Edling.
On the heels of these records releases and scrutiny, Fort Lauderdale tells the Florida Record that the campaign did not persuade the City. Whatever role public oversight plays in giving politicians pause, it is clear that these records provide useful insight into the Climate Litigation Industry.
ERI is a DC-based nonprofit spearheading climate litigation in Colorado. Video footage affirms ERI’s pitch to the Fort Lauderdale city commission. These public records suggest, however, that ERI serves as something of a public-face stand-in in the recruiting campaign. If so, that is consistent with other records showing the plaintiffs’ firm behind the suits, SherEdling, actively recruiting Florida municipalities as plaintiffs while laboring to minimize the public record created.
These more recent Fort Lauderdale correspondence, and a review of Fort Lauderdale’s lobbying records, also reveal broader coordination with large nonprofits, local activists, and media to pressure the city into action.
We see that Marco Simons, General Counsel for EarthRights International, first approached the Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s office in July on bringing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies to pay for climate change damages last year. He ultimately pitched City Commission in October.
Seth Platt of LSN partners is a registered lobbyist for the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD), with Richard Wiles listed as the principal on that lobbying registration. In prepping for ERI’s public pitch to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, Platt scheduled several meetings on behalf of Wiles and IGSD, involving the Mayor, Chief Resilience Officer, ERI’s Simons, as well as other council members. Records indicate that neither Richard Wiles nor any representatives of IGSD attended the meetings scheduled on their behalf.
Emails reveal that Simons and Fort Lauderdale City Attorney Alain Boileau also met last summer to discuss ERI’s lawsuit proposal. At the time, the Climate Litigation Industry had suffered setbacks in federal courts in California and New York. Platt wrote the Mayor and his aides about this in a June 29, 2018 email seemingly pasting in an attorney’s rationalization of the California dismissal. The summary encouraged further litigation in state courts, concluding,
“While this is not the ruling we had hoped for, it is just is one pothole in a long road to climate justice.”
In the wake of these defeats, Boileau wrote Mayor Trentalis, copying other aides, on July 27, 2018:
As a follow-up to my email below, as well as our meeting with Seth Plath, please be advised that the New York v. BP, Chrevron [sic] , et al. case, which Seth had provided to us for our meeting, was just dismissed by the United States District Court in New York on July 19 (see attached Order), for almost the identical reasons relied upon the U.S. District Court in California in dismissing the City of Oakland and San Francisco’s lawsuit against the same oil company defendants.
That being said, I had a positive meeting yesterday with Marco Simons, Esquire of the EarthRights International Group, Matt Edling, Esquire, Vic Sher, Esquire, of SherEdling, and Jorge Mursuli [also of ERI]. Sher Edling have been able to successfully obtain 6 remands to state court in the cases filed and removed in California, and have yet to suffer any dismissals.
We can discuss in further detail upon your return and at your convenience.
That same day, Boileau wrote his same colleagues:
“I suggested they prepare a presentation for the commission. They just need a target date.”
That led to the October public presentation.
The network sprawls further. IGSD has a project called the Center for Climate Integrity, which is run by Wiles and “supports meritorious climate cases aimed at holding fossil fuel companies and other climate polluters liable for the damages they have caused.” This support includes a PR campaign promoting litigation, and the new podcast Drilled, which provides additional support for and raises awareness around these lawsuits.
Wiles is also the publisher of Climate Liability News (CLN), a non-profit “news” site supportive of climate litigation and launched four days prior to the first lawsuit against energy companies. Amy Westervelt, who would later host Drilled, covered those first lawsuits for CLN. Two of the three members of CLN’s board are employees of IGSD’s Center for Climate Integrity: Wiles and their general counsel, Alyssa Johl.
References: (click to enlarge/open)