People of the State of California v. British Petroleum P.L.C. et al.

In Education, Environment, Politics, Science by E. Calvin Beisner0 Comments

You might—or then you might not—have heard recently of two lawsuits filed in separate jurisdictions in California lately called People of the State of California v. British Petroleum P.L.C. et al., by San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker. They allege that BP and other “big oil” companies are harming people by producing a product that causes dangerous global warming. They’re about as likely to succeed as similar suits of the past—that is, not very. Russell Cook has the story at Here’s the start:

If you are an enviro-activist with access to lawyers and mega-money who believes that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) is caused by evil fossil fuel industries who ignore this harm to humanity to protect their profits, you don’t simply whine about this problem, you file giant lawsuits against those industries.

This already happened in three major global warming nuisance cases: Connecticut v. American Electric PowerComer v. Murphy Oil, and Kivalina v. Exxon.  More recently, New York state attorney general Eric Schneiderman joined with 19 or so other state attorneys general to hold ExxonMobil accountable for supposedly knowing about the harm of it for decades while failing to tell its shareholders about it.

However, Schneiderman has suffered setbacks ranging from faulty evidence to withdrawn subpoenas, and the three global warming nuisance cases have fallen apart.  The Supreme Court dismissed Connecticut v. AEP on June 20, 2011; Comer v. Murphy Oil came to its final end on March 20, 2012; and the 9th District Court put the final nail in the coffin of Kivalina v. Exxon on September 21, 2012, prompting some legal pundits to wonder if this was the end of climate tort litigation.

But if at first you don’t succeed with winning your global warming nuisance lawsuits, try, try again.

So it was no surprise last week when nearly identical complaints were filed separately in San Francisco and Alameda Counties, People of the State of California v. British Petroleum P.L.C. et al., by San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland city attorney Barbara J. Parker.

These latest twin cases are predictably plagued with the same problems as the previous CAGW court cases.  Courtrooms are not the right places to decide whether scientific conclusions are sound, and the far bigger problem is that in order to marginalize any input from skeptic scientists, they must be portrayed as paid shills of the fossil fuel industry.  This is arguably political suicide, as it involves reliance on a literally unsupportable accusation promulgated by a small clique of people who’ve been involved in pushing the accusation over the last two decades.

Two of them, reappear – directly and indirectly – in these newest cases: attorney Matt Pawa, who cited this same set of memos in his Kivalina v. Exxon case, and Kert Davies, whose old Ozone Action organization claimed it had “obtained” them back in 1996.

Cook goes on to tell why the case is so fatally flawed. Click here to read the rest.

Originally published on The Stewards Blog.

In the featured Image over 30,000 people rallied and marched in Melbourne on Sunday 21 September 2014 as part of the global Peoples climate protest for action on climate change. It was one of over 2500 protests in 150 countries around the world. (Photo courtesy of Takver, Flickr Creative Commons.)

Dr. Beisner is Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance; former Associate Professor of Historical Theology & Social Ethics, at Knox Theological Seminary, and of Interdisciplinary Studies, at Covenant College; and author of “Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate” and “Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future.”

Leave a Comment