Of Smoking Guns and Just So Stories - Climate Litigation Watch

Of Smoking Guns and Just So Stories

As SCOTUS hearing in City of Baltimore nears, documents old and new raise serious doubts about plaintiffs’ claims 

The United States Supreme Court will hear Mayor and City of Baltimore v. BP p.l.c., next Tuesday, the first case in an epidemic of coordinated climate litigation to make it to the Court. 

While this “climate nuisance” case, like a wave of prosecutions alleging consumer fraud that followed, all are expressly grounded in the narrative of global-climate catastrophism, the argument is a jurisdictional one that has nothing to do with the substance or merits of climate change. 

Nonetheless, the outcome should play a big role in determining which industry survives — the hydrocarbon energy industry, or the climate litigation industry. 

In the run-up to oral argument, CLW has spotted how certain documents, both long-possessed and recently obtained by public record requesters, further put the lie to the climate plaintiffs’ argument.

2016 “secret meeting at Harvard” agenda laid out the “purely local” cases — and their sequence — which followed

That argument changed following a series of defeats by the climate-plaintiff industry in federal courts (and an evisceration in New York state). Suddenly the claim was that, your honor, these suits have nothing to do with global carbon this or global climate that; why, they are purely local matters!

As a rhetorical matter, no longer was this “lawfare” just the chosen path to coerce defendantsto the table” to agree to quite radical, national policies and ultimately to enlist them as lobbyists for same. That is, substituting verdicts for the plaintiffs’ failure to enact policy. All of which has been so often confessed by its practitioners.

It is no longer even — as one plaintiffs’ attorney in the City of Baltimore case (among other cases) previously boasted — a campaign to “bring down the fossil fuel companies”, out of frustration that the activists can’t get the public to go along with their program. Nope. It’s just one in a series of purely local cases popping up nationwide.

AGs claim climate suits are purely local affairs, which must be judged in respective state courts; AGs’ secrecy pact agrees that the suits “involve common questions of fact and law.”

That doesn’t quite explain progressive attorneys general offices from Washington State to Massachusetts entering a secrecy pact in April 2018 claiming a common legal interest in municipal climate-nuisance litigation filed by San Francisco, Oakland and San Mateo California — later adding the City of Baltimore and others in December 2019. Covering “filed and as-yet-unfiled lawsuits under state or federal law involving common questions of fact and law” in the words of Vermont’s Office of Attorney General.

Then there is this damning missive UCLA law professor Cara Horowitz fired off to her benefactor, the namesake and principal funder of the UCLA Emmett Center (and Harvard’s Emmett Environmental Law and Policy Clinic).

Horowitz’s email to Emmett about this nationwide plan is of course referring to that gift that keeps on giving, the “secret meeting at Harvard”.

That hush-hush confab mapping out the plaintiffs’ desires to AGs (and “prospective funders‘”) was indeed attended by “municipalities” thinking of joining such a, erm, purely local litigation campaign. The secret meeting at Harvard also was attended by representatives for the Attorneys General of (at least) California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York. Some of whom then signed the secrecy pact.

Several of these AGs not only filed the Harvard presenters’ desired “consumer protection” suits, but also then filed an amicus brief in the City of Baltimore “public nuisance” case to keep it in state court, because these, really, after all, are local matters. (For example, climate plaintiff and amicus pleader Rhode Island has confessed that its local matter is to use one of these lawsuits “in state court” to obtain a “sustainable funding stream” that the local legislature wouldn’t agree to. That suit also now appears to be headed to SCOTUS).

Notice also, however, this very sequence of events laid out in the “secret meeting’s” agenda (obtained only after a court’s order compelled the Vermont Attorney General to release it, after 18 months of litigation. They really didn’t want you to see this public record). 

Public nuisance litigation. Then consumer protection claims. Almost like it was scripted.

“New email shows further coordination between funder of UCLA + Harvard centers, Sher Edling consultant, and litigation financier Center for Climate Integrity”

A related public record revealed here for the first time indicates Mr. Emmett also is playing some role in the coordination between attorneys for these climate lawsuits — at minimum, Horowitz’s UCLA colleague Ann Carlson — with one of the climate litigation industry’s other underwriters, the Center for Climate Integrity.

All of which affords some new perspective on Horowitz’s description of the “secret meeting at Harvard”, as “about going after climate denialism [sic]—along with a bunch of state and local prosecutors nationwide”.

Who would have thought that purely local matters — the City of Baltimore case, suits from San Francisco to Manhattan, and Minnesota to DC and Massachusetts — required such coordination among prosecutors, tort lawyers, activist groups and prospective funders from coast to coast?

Imagine what a national campaign would look like.